The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have played with a lackluster offensive line for the past few years, but that could change during this upcoming season.
Of all the position groups in the NFL, having a great offensive line may be second only to quarterback. A great line can make even the most mediocre quarterback look great, but the Buccaneers have not been known for success from this unit recently.
Jameis Winston was running for his life in 2019. Sure, part of the blame rested on the quarterback’s shoulders as he wouldn’t throw the ball away at times, but there were enough instances where an edge defender had an unimpeded shot at Winston to make viewers wonder what was going on.
As a whole, the inside of the line performed very well. Ali Marpet and Ryan Jensen are two of the best interior offensive linemen in the NFL, and Alex Cappa also proved that he has what it takes to remain a starter on the line for now.
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Dotson is old and past his prime, and many fans had 2019 pegged as his last season in Tampa Bay early on. Smith, on the other hand, is younger and playing on a massive contract, and the expectations for his level of play were much higher.
Left tackle is a vital position and a tough one to play at the NFL level, but Smith has to be better if the Bucs want to keep Tom Brady adequately protected.
With Dotson out and first-round draft pick Tristan Wirfs stepping in, the line immediately improved on the right side. Wirfs may not step in and be an instant All-Pro, but all signs indicate that Brady won’t have to worry as much about the right side of his line as much as he would’ve.
While he sometimes gets a bad rap from Bucs fans, Smith has the opportunity to revolutionize the offensive line and has steadily improved throughout his career. If he can cut down on his penalties and keep sacks allowed below five on the year, there is a real chance that the Buccaneer offensive line can finish in the top-10 in the NFL, and Smith will finish as an above-average left tackle.
While it would have been fun to watch Jameis Winston play in a clean pocket at any point in his career, at least Tampa Bay is finally making the right moves to bring their offensive line out of the abyss and into a position of league relevance.