Nov 4, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin (22) and tackle Demar Dotson (69) react after the game against the Oakland Raiders at the O.co Coliseum. The Buccaneers defeated the Raiders 42-32. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

Pewter Plank Mailbag: Predicting Starters at Three Positions for the 2013 Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Welcome back to another edition of the Pewter Plank Mailbag. This week we have a pair of questions that work so well together, I combined them into one.

 

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Let’s take it one position at a time, and give these two Bucs’ fans the answers they seek!

Right Tackle

For me, this one is easy. Demar Dotson is the odds-on favorite to win the RT job, and in my eyes it’s not even close. Yes, Gabe Carimi was brought in by trade and was a much better prospect coming out of college, but the Buccaneers committed to Doston with a contract extension this offseason, This doesn’t mean Dotson will keep his job, but I think he’s a player who took big strides last season, and is finally growing into being a solid football player and not just an enormous athlete.

Carimi will provide excellent depth on the right side of the line, and could be the right guard of the future if Davin Joseph doesn’t accept a paycut in the coming years. But he has a lot of work to do to earn a job on the outside of the offensive line any time soon. He was awful last year, and must prove he’s fully healthy and capable as a tackle as he was in college for the Badgers. Otherwise, he’s just a very good backup at guard, which is something the Buccaneers can use, as Jamon Meredith had his struggles at right guard while filling in last season.

Backup Running Back

Nov 18, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Cincinnati Bengals halfback Brian Leonard (40) before the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

This one is much more interesting, as the answer to this may not be any one particular player. Doug Martin is clearly a three down player, which means that he will be substituted for on a more random basis, which means the Buccaneers can use players situationally to spell Martin. The primary candidates here are Brian Leonard, Michael Smith, and Mike James, and they all bring something unique to the table as a running back.

Leonard is a very capable receiver as a running back, and can fill the role of Danny Ware from a year ago as a third down back for checkdown passes. He’s not exciting as a runner on handoffs, but does provide a short yardage option with more vision than LeGarrette Blount.

Michael Smith is probably the most dynamic athlete of the bunch, which means he has a chance to emerge as the running back who gets the most carries other than Martin. He’s quick but can also take on defenders, as he’s not some fragile speed back. But he has to prove that he can play at the NFL level. He wasn’t even a full-time back at Utah State, so while it’s good he has experience coming off the bench, he has to take advantage of every opportunity.

Mike James is the personification of “jack of all trades, master of none.” He’s a hard worker who can do anything asked of him, but he doesn’t excel in any one area. He’ll get snaps and do his job, but he doesn’t stand out from this group.

So it’s tough to call any one of these players the backup, but I believe that the running back with the most carries who isn’t named Doug Martin will be Michael Smith. But I think all three of these players will see snaps as the Bucs work to keep Doug fresh.

Strongside Linebacker

This is probably the toughest position battle to predict, as there’s just no way of knowing which way the team is looking to go. There are a plethora of options, and none of them stand out. We’ve already discussed this issue before, and you can read the article by clicking here. But to answer the question directly, as to the probability of Dekoda Watson winning the starting job, I’d say there is a a decent chance, and it’s far from a longshot. But I feel like Adam Hayward and Jonathan Casillas both have the advantage on Watson, despite both having question marks of their own. Hayward took the majority of the snaps when Quincy Black went down last season, and Casillas was brought in to compete at the position, which means Watson faces an uphill battle to start. That said, he’ll likely make the roster, and as such he’ll get his chances. If the Buccaneers are ever looking to blitz from the strong side of the field, you can bet it will be Watson who gets his name called, but I don’t think he’s a starter at the position based on what we’ve seen.

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