T Jeremy Trueblood has endured a rough welcome to the NFL in practice, leaving him well-prepared for opponents from other teams
Tampa Bay Buccaneers second-round pick Jeremy Trueblood plays a rough position. Manning the trenches at right tackle, the rookie has for the last three weeks been clubbed, hacked, spun into, bull-rushed and knocked down – and that's just by his own teammates.
Such are the rigors of an NFL training camp, but fortunately for Trueblood, his 6-8, 316-pound frame can take the abuse as well as dish it out. And make no mistake, Trueblood has reciprocated in kind. Every day until camp concluded this past week, Trueblood has been tested by the Bucs' defense, especially defensive ends Greg Spires and Dewayne White. He's won some of those battles and lost some, always gaining valuable experience from competing against the NFL's best defense.
So maybe it should come as no surprise that he appeared unfazed in his first professional start last Friday against the New York Jets. It also shouldn't be surprising that he's more than ready to mix it up again Saturday night against the Miami Dolphins.
"I wasn't surprised by much," said Trueblood, commenting on playing in his first professional game. "I knew what to expect for the most part.
"I always feel that practice is actually harder than game day, especially when you're going against a quality defense like our own. To get out there on the field [last week] and actually know what it's like was a great thing, and now I know what to expect. Hopefully, I go out there and improve on everything I did last week."
All he did last week was fill in for an injured Kenyatta Walker, helping clear holes for the Bucs running backs on their way to a 167-yard night while not surrendering any sacks or committing any penalties. He continued to demonstrate an advanced maturity after the game when he quickly deferred all of the credit to his running backs that evening, Earnest Graham and Carey Davis – something he was still doing this week.
"After the game I said it's not hard to do well when you have running backs who run like that," Trueblood said. "We're going to keep on doing what we're doing, do everything that we've learned and the backs take care of the rest."
Trueblood's maturity is something Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Bill Muir said played a big part in the Buccaneers' decision to draft him. Muir said Trueblood – as well as first-round selection Davin Joseph – were identified by Bucs scouts as not only having the physical attributes required to play on the offensive line but also possessing football instincts – maturity necessary to making the adjustment to professional football quicker than some rookies.
Those adjustments will continue Saturday night against the Dolphins defense and its aggressive blitzing schemes. The Dolphins 3-4 defense sets out to create confusion among offensive lines by disguising its pass rushers and sending them from various angles. The result is often poor recognition and missed assignments by offensive linemen who are forced to adjust at a moment's notice.
Trueblood is well aware of the challenge ahead of him. For one thing, he faces the possibility of lining up against a much bigger defensive end than he is used to seeing in practice. Dolphins defensive end Kevin Carter is listed at 6-6, 305 pounds. The Bucs usually favor smaller, quicker linemen…Greg Spires is 6-1, 265 pounds and Dewayne White is 6-2, 273 pounds. While Spires and White are considered speed ends, Carter plays with more power than speed, not to mention experience – he's in his 12th year in the league. In addition, the Dolphins could line up four-time Pro Bowler and sack specialist Jason Taylor on different sides, forcing Trueblood to account for his presence at least a few times.
"Everything [Miami] does has our attention," Trueblood said. "They blitz a lot, and they know how to disguise it well. They're a good defense, but basically we feel like we're prepared, and we're just ready to get after it and do whatever we can to stop their blitzes.
"They're a good defense. There is nothing to single out because they can do it all well. We're going to go in there with the mindset that we're prepared, and it'll all take care of itself."
How Trueblood fares against such complex fronts and accomplished players could go a long way to determining just how ahead of his time this rookie really is.