The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have solidified their offensive line with the addition of Ryan Jensen at center. Heading into camp there are still a few back up roles that need to be established.
The Starting Five
Left Tackle: Donovan Smith
I get it. Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting left tackle Donovan Smith is probably not your favorite offensive lineman. With his ‘ups and downs’ and inconsistency when it comes to technique, he is not a Pro-Bowl caliber player yet. However, his size, talent, and athleticism suggest he can become the left tackle that the Buccaneers have been looking for since Donald Penn’s release in 2014. Former Eagles’ soon to be Hall-of-Fame safety Brian Dawkins once said on ESPN, “The best ability is availability.” Donovan Smith has had “the best ability” so far in his career, playing in every game since he was drafted in 2015. With the combination of talent and durability, Donovan Smith is locked in to the starting left tackle position.
Left Guard: Ali Marpet
Ali Marpet is the Buccaneers’ best offensive line prospect that the team can offer. Last season, the team decided to move Marpet from his natural position at guard, to center. Playing his new position, Marpet looked uncomfortable at times. He showed flashes as to why he is so highly touted within the organization, but made mistakes as well. This season, Marpet will be moving back to his natural guard position and he will continue to pick up where he left off after his strong rookie season. As Marpet continues to grow as a football player, his leadership abilities will grow as well. It is reasonable to assume that Marpet will be a Pro-Bowler sooner rather than later in his career.
Center: Ryan Jensen
I know it is hard to believe, but Ryan Jensen may be a better football player than he is at cooking. He broke out last season with the Baltimore Ravens, earning him a four-year contract worth $42 million. Obviously, the Buccaneers would not be willing to pay someone $42 million if they did not believe that he would be in the starting lineup when the season rolls around. Jensen is only 27 years old and is entering the prime years of his career. He will be the starter for this season.
Right Guard: Caleb Benenoch
Right guard will be one of the positions to watch when training camps begin. Throughout the offseason, J.R. Sweezy was expected to be the starting right guard. After his release, the position will go to the player that shines during training camps and the preseason. Caleb Benenoch will be given the first opportunity to win the job. He is entering his third season with the Buccaneers and his experience gives him the edge over rookie Alex Cappa. Benenoch is also a better athlete than Cappa as shown by his 4.98 40-yard dash time (compared to Cappa’s 5.39) and his broad jump of 104 inches (compared to Cappa’s 97). Evan Smith, the other player competing for the right guard position, is entering his ninth NFL season. Benenoch has youth on his side, and would be considered more of an investment for the future whereas Smith is getting close to the end of his career.
Right Tackle: Demar Dotson
Demar Dotson is the longest tenured member of this Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster and he seems to improve each season. Last season was his best season to date in terms of pass protection. Dotson only allowed 14 total quarterback pressures over the course of his 455 snaps in pass protection. If that is not impressive enough, Dotson was ranked third in the NFL with a pass blocking efficiency of 97.6. As long as he stays healthy and remains on schedule to return from his knee injury last season, Demar Dotson will be the starting right tackle this upcoming season.
Reserve linemen on active roster: Evan Smith and Alex Cappa
Most NFL teams keep two reserve offensive linemen on the active roster each game. Therefore, these two players must be able to play multiple positions in case of an injury. Evan Smith is entering his ninth season in the NFL. He is a seasoned veteran but his versatility is what separates him from other players. He is naturally a guard but can step in to play any position on the interior offensive line when needed. Alex Cappa has many of the same qualities. His strength is his run blocking abilities which is why he is in the conversation to start at right guard. However, the position that he played in college was offensive tackle. His experience at tackle, could make him the reserve swing tackle on this roster. Cappa could also play an important role on the goal line when the Buccaneers decide to bring in an extra offensive lineman.
Make the roster but not activated on gameday: Leonard Wester and Adam Gettis
Most NFL teams keep two offensive linemen that are on the roster but are not activated on each gameday since only 46 of the 53 players can be active. These players act as the reserve to the backup linemen. Therefore, these linemen must be both versatile and experienced. This is what separates Leonard Wester and Adam Gettis from the other remaining linemen. Wester is entering his third season as a Buccaneer and has played in 11 career games. Gettis has played 17 career games between the Giants and the Redskins. Gettis will fit into the Evan Smith role barring an injury because of his ability to play multiple positions on the interior offensive line. Wester will fit in behind Cappa if there is an injury because he can play either tackle position. He can even catch as he showed during the 2017 season!
— Robert Sigrist (@DocSig) December 10, 2017
Remaining offensive lineman on the roster: Cole Boozer, Reuben Holcomb, Michael Liedtke, Givens Price, Brad Seaton
This group of players will compete throughout training camps, but fall short of making the final 53 man roster. Between each one of these players, there is only three years of experience and only two games played. There is still potential for one or two of these players to be kept on the practice squad over the course of the season, despite the uphill battle they face.
Evann Goitia is the producer of the Full Press Coverage Buccaneers podcast. He also is a contributing writer for FPC Buccaneers.