The Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks to put its past struggles behind them. Can the new pieces help fix the issues in the trenches?
Regardless of who has been under center, the Tampa Bay quarterbacks have faced constant pressure. Problems have also arisen on the ground as the offensive line has struggled to open up holes in the running game.
Despite the struggles, guard Ali Marpet and tackle Demar Dotson have are among the best at their respective positions. Now with former Baltimore center Ryan Jensen and third-round pick Alex Cappa in the mix, it should be a better showing for the offensive line in 2018.
The two question marks on the o-line revolve around left tackle Donovan Smith and the right guard position. Smith gets picked on often but the criticism is just. He has struggled mightily throughout his career.
The right guard spot is up for grabs. The aforementioned Cappa has a great chance to win the job but Caleb Benenoch and Evan Smith are in the mix. It’s never good to have a hole in the middle of the offensive line but when it’s in between Jensen and Dotson, the problem begins to shrink.
The offensive linemen never get the credit they deserve, but if the Buccaneers are going to have a successful season, they need the big bodies up front to thrive.
Currently on the roster:
Ryan Jensen, Ruben Holcomb, Ali Marpet, Cole Boozer, Alex Cappa, Adam Gettis, Evan Smith, Michael Liedtke, Caleb Benenoch, Givens Price, Cole Gardner, Leonard Wester, Brad Seaton, Donovan Smith, Demar Dotson
On the bubble:
Adam Gettis, Evan Smith, Michael Liedtke, Givens Price, Cole Gardner, Leonard Wester, Brad Seaton, Ruben Holcomb, Cole Boozer
Depending on how many linemen the Buccaneers decide to keep, there will be plenty of cuts along the offensive line. Dotson, Benenoch, Cappa, Jensen, Marpet and Smith are locks. The rest will be in heated competition to make the team. Smith is a veteran and can play both guard and center, so he may be a primary depth piece. Only two or three of the names highlighted above will make the final 53.
The difference maker along the offensive line for Tampa Bay will be the starter at right guard. Alex Cappa and Caleb Benenoch will headline a heated battle at the position. If either player can stand out and provide consistency, it would do wonders for the unit.
Creating a strong interior would be massive for what has been a lackluster rushing attack. Opening up holes for Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones could finally give Tampa Bay a legitimate running game. Now that the Buccaneers have talent at running back, the offensive line needs to give them room to run and the right guard is pivotal when run blocking.
If the offensive line can stay healthy in the preseason and gel, there are reasons to be excited about this unit. The Bucs have a nice mixture of veterans and youth which bodes well for 2018 and beyond.
There’s no question the Bucs had a below average unit up front last season but they are poised for a big step forward in 2018. If healthy, this unit will provide consistency for a Tampa Bay offense which has been known for its up-and-down performances.
One of the biggest concerns will be depth, particularly at the tackle position. Dotson will be 33 in October and coming off an injury-riddled 2017 campaign, he needs to be monitored carefully. Smith has been a poor pass blocker at the other tackle spot too.
Without a strong swing tackle in the mix, things could get ugly on the outside if one of the two goes down.
Odds are, Tampa won’t be elite in the trenches, but if they can give Jameis Winston enough time to hit his open receiver, that’s all it will take for the Bucs to turn their offense around.