Tampa Bay Buccaneers Biggest Off-Season Needs
By Brian DeFeo
The Bucs offensive line is not a huge concern due to youth but depth is a huge concern going forward. The Cowboys defensive end David Irving single handily ended the Bucs playoff run in the final quarter of the Bucs prime time game. He tossed back up right tackle Gosder Cherilus around like a rag doll and potentially ended his career. Demar Dotson is not a great right tackle but he looked like an All-Pro with Cherilus in the lineup.
One injury ended the Bucs season when it was just starting to launch.
The depth on the line is a serious concern going forward because not only are they protecting the face of the franchise but they need to get the running game going for the offense to be effective. The one hope that they have going into next season is the return of J.R. Sweezy. Kevin Pamphile, Ali Marpet, and Donovan Smith are the key cogs to the line where as Dotson and Hawley are replaceable. Don’t get me wrong I like Hawley but he is undersized as a center. Winston was sacked 35 times this season, up from 27 in 2015. He also has to run outside the pocket more times than he wants. Even though he is really good at throwing on the run, he shouldn’t have to.
Joe Hawley is a free agent and the Bucs are most likely to retain him because the center free agent class is the thinnest of the off-season. With Cherilus a free agent as well they can use depth at Right Tackle or potentially a new starter to move Dotson down the depth chart. Riley Reiff, William Beatty, or Matt Kahlil are solid options and if they want a left tackle Donovan Smith may make a move to the right side for the betterment of the team.
The draft is not full of high-end tackles which is the primary need of the Bucs. Cam Robinson is the top of the list with Roderick Johnson and Mike McGlinchey behind him, after that there isn’t much there. With the need for offensive line talent around the league, none of the key pieces may be available at the time where the Bucs select.
While offensive line is never a sexy pick or a player with a chance to score points, it’s how games are won. Do you think the Cowboys would be 13-3 if they drafted Johnny Manziel instead of Zack Martin? Nope. The NFL is won in the trenches and protecting and opening holes is a vital need for the Bucs to have success in the 2017 season.
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While the Bucs developed a lot this year they made fans believe in them again. That belief comes from the potential of the development and acquisitions of the franchise. The team rests in the hands of Jason Licht and if last season was a sign of things to come I’m all for what ever moves are needed to be made.