With the Bucs moving stud Ali Marpet inside to center, the guard positions are now in flux as the team and fans alike wait to see how the experiment works out.
Meanwhile, the rest of the division has just as many question marks surrounding the interior parts of their offensive lines.
Whether it be due to injury, retirements or new acquisitions, just about every team is going to have names playing at guard which didn’t play there at all or much of 2016.
This means changes in communication fluidity, chemistry that ultimately will have an effect on just how good they’ll hold up.
Running between the tackles is crucial in the NFL, especially if your team is going to salt away game clocks to secure victories throughout the year.
Quarterbacks rely on their interior linemen to keep rushers out of their face and out of passing lanes.
There are a lot of question marks here, but we’ll see how each team’s unit projects.
4. J.R. Sweezy and Kevin Pamphile, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What sticks the Bucs starting guards down here at fourth in the division is simply unfamiliarity.
J.R. Sweezy spent his first season on the team healing from an off-season back injury and subsequent surgery.
Kevin Pamphile played on the left side, and should project better to the right side, but it’s yet to be seen how it’ll go in 2017.
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Of course, if Ali Marpet returns to his right guard spot this changes things.
Time will tell if Sweezy can return to form and if Pamphile can hold his own filling in for Marpet.
If they can, then this duo will definitely climb this list in real life. If not, then some fans will be calling for drastic moves up front in 2018.
3. Andy Levitre and Wes Schweitzer, Atlanta Falcons
Indecision isn’t good for any positions group, and the Falcons have a big decision pending on their offensive line here.
Right guard Chris Chester retired after this season, and let’s be honest, he wasn’t the greatest option for them anyway.
The team did bring in a free agent in Hugh Thornton from Indianapolis who spent all of 2016 on IR, and he could be the guy to grab the job if healthy.
Apparently, according to one Atlanta beat writer, Wes Schweitzer is the favorite so he’s the one I used here.
Head coach Dan Quinn said of Schweitzer,
"“He was right there battling for it (in 2016). We’re excited about where Wes is headed.” – Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn"
I don’t know who wins the battle, but it looks like it’s between the guy who lost the same battle last year and a guy the Colts didn’t want on their offensive line.
2. Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner, Carolina Panthers
The Panthers offensive line simply wasn’t very good as a unit last season. These two gentlemen are a returning part of the line, but to be fair, didn’t combine as often as they’d like to have in 2016.
Turner came down a bit and just looked worse when he was asked to kick outside for a spell.
If he can’t correct his decline, then the middle of Carolina’s line will suffer significantly.
Andrew Norwell was perhaps the best individual lineman on the team, and even though he’s not enough to get the Panthers’ unit as a whole above the second spot, perhaps he can help his line mate correct his deficiencies from a year ago.
This team invested their top pick in a running back who thrives when the line can open lanes and secure their blocks.
These two are going to be two of the most important in helping young Christian McCaffrey have a successful rookie season.
1. Andrus Peat and Larry Warford, New Orleans Saints
The Saints top this grouping, but it hinges on Andrus Peat being allowed to stay inside, and free-agent addition Larry Warford being successful as the team’s new starting right guard.
Injury pulled Peat out of his comfort zone for part of last season, and he wasn’t the only one who felt the discomforting results.
Terron Armstead – more on him later – will have a big say in this, but if he goes down again the team has drafted Ryan Ramczyk out of Wisonsin who should be serviceable enough to keep the interior duo together.
So the Saints get a top unit on the board with one free agent move which should help the success of another.
If Peat and Warford are as advertised, then Adrian Peterson should find room to be successful in 2017 as he brings some Hall of Fame caliber star-power to Drew Brees’ backfield.