The Filibuster: Week 2

What a joy it was not to watch the game live. The Bucs were putrid in every facet. The offense led the way with five turnovers, all by Jameis Winston. The defense stopped putting up a fight halfway through the second quarter, and special teams did nothing to stem the tide.

The Bucs started the game in fine fashion, forcing a punt on Arizona’s first drive. Even the beginning of the first offensive drive looked good with some nice completions and Doug Martin runs.

Obviously the wheels started to come off with Winston’s first interception. While he had Evans in a one-on-one matchup with no safety over the top, Winston was throwing at Patrick Peterson, a cornerback who makes passers pay for inaccurate throws.

Winston was already taking a risk with the throw, opting for the big play over a wide open Doug Martin in the flat. Mike Evans did him no favors by opening his hips too early allowing Peterson to take position over top at less than top speed. Winston’s tendency to slightly  overthrow his deep balls left Peterson in perfect position to pick him off.

The defense picked up the slack and forced another punt, but the shine was off the offense. Blocking was lethargic. Doug Martin’s two-yard loss was doomed by Donovan Smith’s slow get-off and Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ complete lack thereof. Vincent Jackson became a shadow of himself.

Injuries certainly didn’t help. Doug Martin’s hamstring injury again proved he is the grease the keeps the gears of the offense turning. Robert Ayers’ loss further depleted the Bucs thinning defensive end ranks. While not a playmaker, Luke Stocker is an instrumental role player particularly to the run game.

The offense’s ineptitude crept over to the defense. Jaron Brown’s 51-yard touchdown exposed every weakness in the Bucs pass defense. The pass rush didn’t sniff Carson Palmer. The zone coverage fell to pieces when Chris Conte came too far down and let Brown run right by him.

If there was one thing the Bucs did consistently, it was bottle up the run game. The Cards gained only 101 yards in 29 attempts on the ground. Even the coverage was tighter than its been in the past. Alterraun Verner even looked like a $6 million cornerback. The defense looked much worse thanks to the offense’s constant mistakes.

Still, it was Winston’s turnovers that clipped the Bucs’ wings, even if they weren’t all his own. His second interception falls more on Vincent Jackson than Winston, but his fumble was downright shameful, reminiscent of his meme-enshrined Rose Bowl fumble. Winston’s third interception was tipped by DT Josh Mauro. Though not entirely his fault, the pass was still too low with a defender in his face. The fourth was a game-ending hail mary.

The Bucs live and die on Winston’s play. Last week he looked like the franchise quarterback he was drafted to be. In Arizona, he gave an encore of Week 1… 2015. His greatest weakness remains consistency. He can’t be so hot and cold and expect the Bucs to sustain success.

If Week 1 was a taste of what the Bucs could be, Week 2 was a reminder how low they can go. There’s a Bucs team somewhere in between, a team that needs to trend towards it’s Week 1 incarnation. 1-1 isn’t bad, and one loss isn’t the end of the world, no matter the score.

 

Oh, and Robert Aguayo missed another sub-50 yard kick. Two picks for a kicker…

Super Saturday: Week 1 at Atlanta

At last, the Bucs are back! They open the season with the chance to take an early command of the NFC South following Carolina’s loss to Denver on Thursday. The matchup with Atlanta is also an opportunity for Tampa Bay to break their troubling habit of starting the season with a disastrous effort.

This season provides the Bucs with an ideal opportunity to exit the NFC South cellar. While Jason Licht made numerous moves to upgrade talent and address needs along the defensive line and at cornerback, the Falcons and Saints persist with their underwhelming front offices.

Thomas Dimitroff is Atlanta’s secret bane. After early success drafting Matt Ryan and signing Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez, Dimitroff became complacent with talent evaluation. The defense is a joke, lacking a centerpiece like Carolina’s Luke Kuechly or Tampa’s Gerald McCoy.

Really the only playmaker Atlanta has on defense is CB Desmond Trufant. Everyone else is either a role player, an unproven commodity, or is plain inadequate. Head coach Dan Quinn’s first head coaching gig is doomed so long as he has such a talent-starved roster.

The offense is only marginally better. Julio Jones is a top-3 receiver and Devonta Freeman broke out last year despite a merely average offensive line. Matt Ryan, once a promising franchise quarterback, has regressed the last two years despite Jones playing at an All-Pro level.

The Bucs swept Atlanta last year and it looks likely they will again in 2016. Improvements to the Tampa defense, particularly the coaching staff, should only make the results more disparate. Last year, the defense did well to neutralize an otherwise electric Freeman, and exploited Matt Ryan’s desperate pressing and poor judgment.

Of all the Bucs’ additions on defense, Robert Ayers and Noah Spence should have the greatest impact. A stronger starting line with a deeper rotation will only make life more hellish for Matt Ryan, who struggled when facing pressure last year.

The Bucs offense lacks the experience of Atlanta’s but enters Sunday with more upside. Against the Falcons last year, Jameis Winston threw for 404 yards and scored four touchdowns. While he didn’t exactly set the world on fire, Winston was solid and could be even better against a middling Atlanta defense this year.

While the game may still be decided within a touchdown, the Bucs should take this game, barring of course an “Tennessee-ready”mindset that led to an opening day blowout last season. With a more talented roster, the Bucs merely need to execute.

Final score prediction: Tampa Bay 24 – Atlanta 17

Into the Depths: The 2016 Bucs Roster

With the Bucs depth chart is mostly set, we can see how deep the rabbit hole really goes. The starting line-up remains mostly unchanged from last season. The big changes lie beneath the surface.

Quarterbacks: Jameis Winston, Mike Glennon and Ryan Griffin

This group remains unchanged from last year yet is better all the same. With his rookie year and his first real offseason behind him, Jameis Winston needs to be and should be better.

The Bucs’ 2015 draft class is this year’s X-factor. It is absolutely vital for Winston and his draft classmates to build on their rookie years.

Running backs: Doug Martin, Charles Sims and Peyton Barber

Another mostly unchanged unit. Martin will get most of the carries while Sims gets third downs and change of pace carries. Mike James’ release is truly disappointing as he appeared poised to contribute in a big way. It does give Peyton Barber a big opportunity to prove his worth, but it won’t take much for the Bucs to replace him with Russell Hansbrough or even bring back Mike James.

Wide receivers: Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, Adam Humphries, Russell Shepard and Cecil Shorts

The receiving corps is largely unchanged, which carries positives and negatives. Mike Evans is obviously one of the league’s top wideouts and Vincent Jackson is the wily veteran with velcro hands. Humphries and new addition Cecil Shorts bring the slot game.

The addition of Shorts was significant as the Bucs sorely lacked legitimate depth. While the Bucs should be fine this season, they’ll definitely need to address the position next offseason.

Tight end: Cameron Brate, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Luke Stocker, Brandon Myers and Alan Cross

Five tight ends is enough to make a girl blush. It’s a good bet they’ll see a good bit of action. Brate and Stocker, two of the offense’s most reliable players, should see the most action.

This is Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ make-or-break season. He’s yet to play more than 10 games in a single season, averaging a paltry 2.6 catches and 34.9 yards per game in his career so far. If he can’t exploit his tremendous latent talent, he will solidify his status as a bust.

Tackle: Donovan Smith, Demar Dotson, Gosder Cherilus, Caleb Benenoch, Leonard Wester

Guard: Ali Marpet, Kevin Pamphile and Evan Smith

Center: Joe Hawley

The offensive line gets a lot of heat from popular football evaluators, but you’d never guess they were that bad from last year’s results: top five in rushing and top 10 in sacks allowed. Sure, these numbers don’t tell the whole story, but the line is far from a disaster and is in position to improve with four starters returning.

Again, the key is the development of Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet. Smith needs to clean up his penalties – six holding calls and four false starts is not going to cut it. Marpet was a beast in the run game but must improve as a pass protector.

Depth may be an issue here with JR Sweezy already out. It would not be surprising if, upon Sweezy’s return from the PUP, he failed to outperform Kevin Pamphile. Sweezy was yet another in a long line of ill-advised free agent acquisitions by Jason Licht.

Defensive tackle: Gerald McCoy, Clinton McDonald, Akeem Spence and DaVonte Lambert

Little change here, as the group still revolves around Gerald McCoy, who should bounce back after playing though a rotator cuff injury last year. The group should benefit from the addition of Robert Ayers who can slide inside in nickel situations.

Defensive end: Robert Ayers, Will Gholston, Noah Spence, Jacquies Smith and Howard Jones

Of all the position groups, the defensive ends improved the most. Robert Ayers is the first legit every-down end the Bucs have had since Michael Bennett. He also brings a much-needed nastiness to the front.

The edge rush rotation could be downright relentless this season. With Ayers in the fold, Jacquies Smith won’t need to play as many early downs and can focus his energy on getting to the quarterback. Spence is a star in the making and will make third downs a nightmare for opposing defenses.

Linebacker: Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander, Daryl Smith, Devante Bond and Adarius Glanton

The Bucs linebackers can become of the most fearsome units in the league with two words: finishing tackles. Tampa Bay was one of the worst tackling defenses last year, thanks in large part to Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander.

Thing is, David was a pretty solid tackler under Greg Schiano. Was it something Lovie Smith was teaching?

Kwon is another player football analysts love to lambaste. He can easily quiet them with just a little consistency. He came so close to so many big plays but gave up plenty as well. Mike Smith may be just what the doctor ordered to get Alexander on track to be recognized as the playmaker he could be.

Cornerback: Brent Grimes, Vernon Hargreaves, Alterraun Verner, Jude Adjei-Barimah, Johnthan Banks and Josh Robinson

When Lovie Smith’s lazy Susan approach to his cornerbacks proved catastrophic last season, it became clear the Bucs still lacked sufficient talent in the unit. Brent Grimes is a patch for a job requiring an overhaul.

Fortunately the Bucs also drafted Vernon Hargreaves, and if the preseason is any indication, they’re off to a good start. He was a veritable shutdown corner in the preseason. Continuing down this track would make him a cornerstone of the Bucs defense for years to come.

Safety: Chris Conte, Bradley McDougald, Ryan Smith and Keith Tandy

The defense’s least talented unit, the safeties are adequate if by no means game-changing. McDougald and Conte produced only 10 pass breakups, four interceptions and two fumbles last season. They didn’t give up many big plays, but they didn’t make any either.

Keith Tandy remains the trusty nickel safety. He’s always good for a third down stop or a saved touchdown. The X-factor here is Ryan Smith, the rookie from North Carolina Central. In addition to competing for return duties, he will play for time in a safety rotation that lacks a clear playmaker.

Kicker: Roberto Aguayo

Sigh.

Just…

Sigh.

Aguayo will be fine. Just like Pat Murray and Connor Barth will be fine in Cleveland and Chicago. The Bucs spent a top 100 pick (and the 106th pick) to be fine.

Punter: Bryan Anger

The most furious punter of all time! Anger is a top 10 punter. The Bucs made a good move to sign the former Jacksonville punter.

Long snapper: Andrew DePaola

We continue to hold out for the league’s first Hall of Fame long snapper. Is Andrew DePaola the answer to our prayers? Time will tell.

The Filibuster: Preseason Week 2

The Bucs’ 27-21 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars was more troubling than triumphant. Once again, elements of the starting lineup looked shaky, especially on offense.

The biggest problem of the night was Jameis Winston. From his first pass, the second-year passer struggled with poor mechanics and spotty accuracy. He did little to prove he could carry the offense without his Doug Martin security net.

Winston, and the Bucs generally, were bailed out by the Jaguars lack of discipline. Jacksonville committed 13 penalties for 121 yards. Tampa Bay is unlikely to get that kind of advantage very often during the regular season.

The offensive line wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t do much help matters. Center Evan Smith was blown off his mark on the majority of his snaps. Demar Dotson was less than sharp, drawing an early false start penalty and missing some blocks in motion.

The running backs provided one of the few bright spots on offense. Mike James looks like he could start for the Bucs, or really any team in the NFL, sharing Doug Martin’s stubbornness on initial contact. It would be shocking not to see Peyton Barber and Storm Johnson on someone’s roster during the regular season.

The defense was sharper than the offense though still imperfect. It was clear Gerald McCoy was missed as the defensive line struggled to generate consistent pressure on Blake Bortles. What was curious was Noah Spence’s absence in the first half.

The secondary continued to show progress from last year. Brent Grimes, Chris Conte, Johnthan Banks and Ryan Smith all made impressive plays on the ball. While the defense is still adjusting to the Mike Smith defense, the improvement in the pass game is obvious.

Now to the elephant in the room: Roberto Aguayo. Dirk Koetter can jaw about his kicker all he wants, but Jason Licht won’t let him be cut. The investment is too deep, too damning.

The whole idea of drafting a kicker in the second round is that he was supposed to come with a guarantee not to struggle like this. As I said last week, the Bucs heaped a whole load of unneeded pressure on a player whose position is 90 percent mental. Jason Licht stacked the odds against Aguayo to succeed, and it looks like his gamble is headed for a fiery conclusion.

Next week the Bucs face the Browns in a game where the starters typically get the most work before the regular season. The Bucs need to tighten up across the board and make plays instead of relying on the other team’s implosion.

The Filibuster: Preseason Week 1

After a brief hiatus, Bucs District is back online! We’re trying something a little new, reviewing each game in a series called “The Filibuster.” Basically I’m just going to dump all my thoughts from the game and you’re just going to sit there and take it (no, really, please stay).

The Bucs’ first preseason game of 2016 was illuminating, particularly for anyone expecting Tampa Bay to make a big leap this year. In fact, the Bucs started the game like they did many other games last season, with a major gaffe.

Kenny Bell probably cost himself the kick returner job with his game-opening fumble. Considering he has yet to record a reception in the NFL, Bell may not have a job period.

In a vintage performance, the defense came out shell-shocked after Bell’s fumble and allowed a quick Philadelphia touchdown. In a twist, the defense didn’t stay that way for the rest of the game. The rage of Robert Ayers is already demonstrating its effect on the rest of the line as it harassed the Eagles’ quarterbacks for most of the first half.

The biggest difference in the defense was a secondary that could actually cover. Philly’s quarterbacks completed only 50% of their passes, thanks in large part to tighter coverage from both the defensive backs and the linebackers.

Jameis Winston was a little uneven. Sure his line of 7 of 9 with one touchdown and fumble lost looks pretty good, but he was playing a little slow, holding the ball a little too long and not placing the ball in great spots. Nothing to panic over, but he’ll want to polish his game before the season the starts.

The wide receivers didn’t help their passers much. The game was rife with drops. Every backup wideout not named Russell Shepard needs to step up his game

And finally, the Aguayo miss. This is what the Bucs get for drafting a kicker in the second round. The real question isn’t whether Aguayo can make every kick; it’s whether he can handle the pressure of the expectations that come with his draft position. If you don’t think that pressure exists, just google his name and see how attention one missed PAT got.

Draft Day Mock Draft

Leave it to me to leave a mock draft to the last minute. I thought about submitting this to BucsNation.com but I haven’t touched Bucs District in too long. Time to get back in the swing of things!

This is a no-holds-barred mock. Trades, crazy picks, you name it. It’s a rough estimation of what I think will happen combined with what should happen (pick #8 should not happen, but then again neither should pick #2).

Tell me I’m a genius or tell me I’m an idiot, but tell me! Reply below or tweet me at @BucsDistrict!

1. Los Angeles – QB Jared Goff, California

This pick is a foregone conclusion. The Rams didn’t trade up to take anything other than a quarterback. Goff may not be the best prospect in this draft, but he’s the best passer which makes him a worthwhile number one pick.

2. Philadelphia – QB Carson Wentz, North Dakota St.

If Philadelphia made this trade for anyone but Wentz, well, it is the Eagles. They gave up way too much for a quarterback with barely two years experience, but it’s a done deal now. Philly fans thought it couldn’t get worse after Chip. They were wrong.

3. San Diego – S Jalen Ramsey, Florida St.

Ramsey may be the best player in the draft. San Diego badly needs offensive line help, but they have a lot of guaranteed money tied up with their tackles. It’s hard to see them adding Laremy Tunsil just have him sit or play guard.

4. Dallas – DE Joey Bosa, Ohio St.

Unless Jerry Jones pulls his “I’m the owner” card and does something silly like take Ezekiel Elliot, Bosa is the pick here. They need an edge-rusher badly and Bosa is one best players on the board at this point.

5. Jacksonville – LB Myles Jack, UCLA

Without the injury concerns, Myles Jack might have gone even higher. In any case, I don’t see Jacksonville passing on the guy primed to be the heart of their defense. It is also possible they trade out of this pick to a team trying to grab Laremy Tunsil.

6. Baltimore – OT Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss

The Ravens get a steal with Laremy Tunsil falling to them. He could be gone with any of the three preceding picks via trade. Ozzie Newsome wins the draft. Again.

7. San Francisco – DE DeForest Buckner, Oregon

The San Francisco defense is in a state of transition with their third coach in three years and many of their best starters from the Harbaugh era gone. The draft’s best defensive lineman just plain makes sense.

8. Cleveland – QB Paxton Lynch, Memphis

Cleveland is still Cleveland so they reach big time for Paxton Lynch. At least they take a quarterback and not a running back, even if it is Ezekiel Elliot. Honestly, if Cleveland makes this pick, it will force everyone to change their draft plans.

9. Tennessee (from Tampa Bay) – OT Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame

And so the trades begin. Tampa Bay has to be chomping on the bit to trade down and Tennesee has second round picks to use to go get Ronnie Stanley, their bookend to Taylor Lewan.

10. New York Giants – RB Ezekiel Elliot, Ohio St.

The Giants surprise everyone with this one, but it makes sense. Elliot makes their offense a near powerhouse, taking pressure off a talent-limited defense. Try accounting for Elliot and Odell Beckham Jr. on the same field.

11. Chicago – CB Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida

The first cornerback to goes to Chicago. Hargreaves is basically a shorter, twitchier version of Kyle Fuller. They could also go with either line, but Ryan Pace isn’t going to reach on the guys still available like Jack Conklin or even Shaq Lawson.

12. Indianapolis (from New Orleans) – LB Leonard Floyd, Georgia

While GM Ryan Grigson has missed on many of the pass-rushers he’s drafted before, Floyd is a gift at the 18th pick. He’s a bit slight but he’s fast and athletic. He’ll be well schooled with Robert Mathis and Trent Cole still around.

13. Miami – LB Darron Lee, Ohio St.

Miami fails to trade up for Ezekiel Elliot or either of the top tackles, so they settle for the draft’s second best 4-3 outside linebacker.

14. Detroit (from Oakland) – DT Sheldon Rankins, Louisville

With Tampa Bay trading down to 15, Detroit might get nervous that they’ll lose out on a top defensive tackle so they go up and get Sheldon Rankins. Losing Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley left the middle of their defense soft as ever. Rankins brings the draft’s best interior pass rush to the Lions defense.

15. Tampa Bay (from Tennessee) – LB Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky

What’s tough about this pick is figuring out what Jason Licht values in an edge defender. If he’s looking for pure pass rush, this pick is Noah Spence. If he wants a 3-down player, Lawson packs his bags for Tampa Bay. The swerve that’s not a swerve would be Andrew Billings, who makes that defensive interior utterly lethal. Spence ought to be the pick, but Licht’s marginal history drafting defensive players doesn’t provide much insight.

16. Oakland (from Detroit) – CB Mackenzie Alexander, Clemson

Oakland is transforming into an actual NFL team, but the secondary is still problematic. Alexander isn’t the best cornerback available, but he is the best fit for Oakland’s defense.

17. Atlanta – WR Josh Doctson, TCU

The Falcons pass offense sputtered last season because they have exactly one legitimate receiver, Julio Jones. Doctson is the best receiver in the draft, greater even than Treadwell. Opposing defenses will have a hard time defending two tall, physical receivers.

18. New Orleans (from Indianapolis) – WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss

New Orleans has been gutting its offense thanks to Mickey Loomis’ awful cap management. Treadwell is the perfect possession receiver to replace Marques Colston and complement the smaller, speedier Brandin Cooks.

19. Buffalo – LB Reggie Ragland, Alabama

With Paxton Lynch gone, Rex Ryan is going to make sure his defense looks like one of his defenses rather whatever it was he fielded last year. Ragland isn’t ultra athletic, but he’s a physical presence the middle of the Buffalo defense badly needs.

20. New York Jets – QB Connor Cook, Michigan St.

The Jets miss out on Paxton Lynch, but they desperately need a quarterback so Cook is the call. He gets a bad rap for his uneven play and reportedly sour leadership, yet he’s more productive than any passer going in the first round. Still, like pretty much every quarterback pick in the first round this year, this is a reach.

21. Washington – DT Andrew Billings, Baylor

Billings is powerful and versatile, everything Washington needs. Adding him and Josh Norman makes that defense surprisingly formidable.

22. Houston – WR Corey Coleman, Baylor

Houston’s offense was one-note last year, relying on Deandre Hopkins to carry a QB and RB carousel. Coleman is not a polished receiver, but Houston would be nuts to skip out.

23. Minnesota – S Keanu Neal, Florida

Keanu Neal + Harrison Smith = pain.

24. Cincinnati – WR Will Fuller, Notre Dame

Cincy actually does better with its Day 2 picks so this “eh” pick should come as no surprise.

25. Pittsburgh – CB William Jackson III, Houston

Jackson III is a great fit for Pittsburgh and reinforces a shaky secondary.

26. Seattle – DT Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss

Something about Robert Nkemdiche just seems very Seattle. It could be his insane quickness and power. This is a project move, but if it pans out, that defense is nastier than ever.

27. Green Bay -DT Vernon Butler, Louisiana St.

Another draft, another defensive lineman for Ted Thompson and the Packers.

28. Kansas City – WR Tyler Boyd, Pitt

This pick is just me going nuts. I have no idea what the Chiefs will do (I also don’t care what they do that much so…)

29. New England – Pick Forfeited for Deflategate

30. Arizona – C Ryan Kelly

Anyone else see that NFC Championship game? Time to shore up that offensive line.

31. Carolina – DE Kevin Dodd, Clemson

Carolina makes a lot of curious personnel decisions, but it more or less works out for them. Dodd is no sure thing, but don’t be surprised if he becomes a formidable pass-rusher.

32. Denver – DT Jarran Reed, Alabama

No QB? No problem. They won a Super Bowl with a geriatric and a suffocating defense. Why not do it again?

State of the Union: Part 5

Here comes the big tamale: the offensive line. It’s not so much that there’s more to the line’s current state so much as there are so many players to cover.


Donovan Smith

The first of the Bucs’ two rookie offensive linemen, Donovan Smith was good enough, which is better than he was expected to be. To some, Smith was a reach when the Bucs selected him in the second round of last year’s draft especially given his projection as a right tackle.

Smith started every game at left tackle, and the results were mixed. For the times Smith dominated and mauled defenders, he had just as many where he whiffed on blocks and appeared unsure of what he was doing.

It’s important to remember that the guy was a rookie. He’s an unfinished product. That, of course, could be good or bad. Some are convinced that Smith is on track to a career filled with Pro Bowls. It’s far too early to expect him to be a perennial all-star.

The key is consistency. Not just from Smith, but from the rest of the offense and his new head coach. The left


Logan Mankins

The grizzled veteran. Or maybe the grizzly bear veteran. It can be hard to say.

No longer shaken by his sudden trade from the Patriots, the 11-year veteran led the Bucs offensive line. Mankins provided the younger linemen like Smith and Ali Marpet an example of how to be a professional, how to make it in the NFL.

Though he made a big deal of arriving to training camp in the best shape of his career, Mankins continued showing his age. He’s no longer the dominant physical force he once was. He must be feeling it too, indicating last week that he may call it a career this offseason per JoeBucsFan.

While Mankins’ leadership and experience would be missed, the Bucs absolutely could improve at left guard. Kevin Pamphile performed admirably both as the Bucs’ sixth lineman and in relief of Mankins. If he does choose to retire, the Bucs have a viable replacement already on the roster in Pamphile.

Free agency is always a viable option for finding starting interior linemen. The recently cut Jahri Evans might seem like an obvious option, but he’s only a year younger than Mankins and is also on an apparently downslide.

If indeed Mankins retires, the Bucs should consider signing Chiefs G Jeff Allen, 49ers G Alex Boone, and Ravens G Kelechi Osemele, assuming any of them even make it to the open market. All three will command decent paydays and the Bucs have cap room to spare.

Of course the draft is another avenue to consider. There aren’t any guards really worth considering with the Bucs’ ninth overall pick. To be honest, I haven’t even touched offensive linemen with my draft evaluation because, well, there are much bigger needs. Don’t roll your eyes! I’m getting to it!


Joe Hawley

Did anyone really expect Evan Smith to be in this spot?

Hawley took ownership of the center spot almost immediately after starting in Smith’s stead. He brought a sorely needed nastiness and edge to the line as well as simply being a better center than Smith.

Hawley remains under contract through 2016. Given his relationship with Dirk Koetter and impact in 2015, he’s not likely to be replaced and may even receive an extension.


Ali Marpet

From Hobart to the NFL, Marpet’s transition could not have gone much better. Despite doubts he would start until midseason, the D-III standout started all but three games he missed with an ankle injury.

Was Marpet perfect? Of course not. Like his rookie lineman compatriot Donovan Smith, Marpet struggled with consistency. He was clearly stronger run blocking than in pass protection. His annihilation at the hands of Aaron Donald was the clearest instance of this.

Marpet also shared Smith’s evident progress down the stretch. In fact, they both made the Pro Football Writer’s Association’s All Rookie team:

The future is certainly bright for Marpet, but his fate is no more certain than Smith’s. The coming season is crucial to the rest of their careers.


Demar Dotson

The longest-tenured Buccaneer saw his value within the organization take a hit following his minicamp holdout and MCL sprain. These two events brought negotiations to extend his contract to a screeching halt. It is still unclear whether the Bucs are still interested in keeping him around.

Dotson is 30 years old. He’s not likely to play right tackle any better than he has already. That’s not necessarily a knock on him. There’s a reason why the Bucs kept him around so long. He remains the most consistent pass protector on the team.

Another reason why Dotson stuck around was the bargain he provided the Bucs. He only cost the Bucs an average of $1.5 million per year since 2012. It was like buying Lexus for the price of a Kia.

Dotson will again have to compete to start at right tackle with Gosder Cherilus. While Dotson is a superior pass protector, Cherilus did bring a little bit of chemistry to the rest of the line. It have just been the result of more snaps in Koetter’s offense, but the overall results were better with Cherilus at right tackle.

Starting the last two games of 2015 bodes well for Dotson though the results of the games might not. The Bucs might already recognize that he’s the superior choice, at least for 2016. Dotson’s fate beyond next season is anything but certain.


Gosder Cherilus

The would-be stopgap journeyman held onto the right tackle spot for most of the 2015 season. It’s still unlikely he has a place in Tampa Bay beyond this year.

Cherilus was serviceable for the Bucs. He went unnoticed most of the time, a good sign for any offensive lineman. Too often though he was plain schooled by opposing pass rushers.

What’s most damning was the Bucs’ decision to full-on bench Cherilus at the end of the season. He was a healthy scratch in their final game, absent from the injury and active lists against Carolina:

(By the way, follow Steven on Twitter. His play breakdowns and Vines are fantastic.)

Like he did for the Colts, Cherilus filled in just when the Bucs needed him. If Dotson stays healthy through the preseason, the Bucs would get better value from a spending Cherilus’ roster spot on a younger lineman with upside.


Evan Smith

Another of the Bucs’ less successful free agent signings from 2014, Smith needs to be done in Tampa Bay.

His benching in favor of Hawley was a cold bucket of ice water for a bad dream. Smith amounted to little more than a speed bump in the middle of the line and brought nothing to the run game.

Smith’s saving grace? His 2016 salary. He’s only owed $2.5 million. That may be just enough to keep him in Tampa Bay for another year as a swing interior lineman. Just don’t expect him to be around in 2017 when the Bucs would owe him $4.5 million.


Kevin Pamphile

The Bucs’ 2014 fifth-round pick built off the strong finish to his rookie year, becoming the key sixth lineman. If the Bucs needed a job done, Pamphile was up to the task.

Unless the Bucs find a bunch of quality linemen in the next few months, Pamphile isn’t going anywhere. His versatility is too valuable. His viability beyond 2016 depends on his continued maturation as more than just the heavy package tight end and fill-in guard.


And now the Too-Early Depth Chart Prediction:

Left tackle: Donovan Smith

Left guard: Kevin Pamphile

Center: Joe Hawley, Evan Smith

Right guard: Ali Marpet

Right tackle: Demar Dotson, Gosder Cherilus

The Bucs are certain to add new linemen… ok ok I’ll start my draft coverage! Golly!