Bucs’ O-line coach Warhop likes his players

by Gary Shelton on May 19, 2017 · 0 comments

in general

Bucs' line coach George Warhop likes Demar Dotson./ANDREW J. KRAMER

Bucs' line coach George Warhop likes Demar Dotson./ANDREW J. KRAMER

Friday, 3 a.m.

When the conversation begins, you wonder how bad the Bucs' offensive line is.

When it is over, you wonder if they are really that good.

After all, there were plenty of times the Bucs' line struggled last year. They averaged only 3.6 yards per run, which was 28th in the NFL. They allowed 43 sacks (and dozens of other hits on their quarterback), which was tied for 15th.

Still, if you listen to Bucs' offensive line coach George Warhop, the offensive line seems to be one of the strongest

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Tackle Smith has his critics../ANDREW J. KRAMER

Tackle Smith has his critics../ANDREW J. KRAMER

units on the team. Warhop spreads praise like an orchestra conductor, and after a while, you wonder if he is talking about the Seven Blocks of Granite.

Elsewhere, the world does not seem sure. Left tackle Donovan Smith, in particular, draws heavy criticism from the skeptics, and the unit as a whole gets a lot of skepticism from the critics. In several mock drafts last month, analysts had the Bucs taking a lineman high, perhaps with the first pick.

“I didn't see it,” Warhop said. “I'm not nervous about. If I was nervous, I would have been screaming at the draft day 'We need-a guy, we need a guy.' But I think we're ok.”

He didn't. The way Warhop sees it, the line is in good shape. Yes, that includes Smith.

It was Thursday, the day when the Bucs' assistant coaches find their voices. And while they didn't reveal a lot you didn't know, their thoughts added depth to the Bucs' players.

“If you look at Donovan last year, the first thing he has to improve on is being consistent,” Warhop said. “He is an unbelievable talent. He literally can be one of the top 2-3 tackles in the league. That's just my opinion. I love the guy. He's got strength, he's got quickness, he's got athleticism. He's smart. I thought the early part of the year last year, he just wasn't very consistent. If you watch him in the second half of the season, he was a lot more consistent. He played pretty well for us.

“I'm excited for Donovan. You all better be ready for him to do something spectacular. He's going to be a really great player for us.”

Smith has played every snap since being drafted in 2015. But he's regularly chided by Pro Football Focus, although, to be fair, the site has no idea what the line calls are on a particular play.

And, yes. Warhop is in charge, and he isn't about to say anything critical of one of his players. But you can praise a lot milder than Warhop did.

Marpet will try a move to center./ANDREW J. KRAMER

Marpet will try a move to center./ANDREW J. KRAMER

There is guard J.R. Sweezy, who missed all of last season.

“He's doing a nice job for us out there,” Warhop said. “He's worked his tail off. He brings an edge. I'll be excited when we get into pads. He's got a little bit of Logan (Mankins, the Bucs' ex-guard) to him, which we missed last year. I don't know how to describe it, but it's like 'I'm going to beat the dog crap out of you' edge. He has that. One day at a time with him.”

“We're in Phase Two. The players aren't holding the (blocking) bags. Me and Butch (Barry) are holding the bags. I get to feel him every day. That's how I know he's got him.”

Ali Marpet will be tried out at center, a move Warhop has foreseen since Marpet was taken in the second round.

“It was just a matter of when,” Warhop said. “I think Ali is a combination of Joe (Hawley) and Evan (Smith). He's bigger than Joe, and he's quicker than Evan. And those are two very good players.”

At right tackle is Kevin Pamphile, who at one point last season was the Bucs' top-rated lineman.

“He did well (last year),” Warhop said. “He had a concussion and he missed three weeks. Kevin is very, very consistent. He has very strong hands. He can literally take a guy off the line of scrimmage with a block.”

Demar Dotson is the right tackle again.

“Dot? You guys all know Dot,” Warhop said. “Dot's about the guy. He's a tremendous person. He has the biggest heart of any kid I've been around. Too big, sometimes. He's ultra-competitive. He literally beats the dog crap out of the (opposition). He won't take a drill off. You have to force him to take one off.”

If you're a guy who studies offensive line play, of course, you can debate what you see with what Warhop sees. If the line is as solid as Warhop suggests, then the average per carry will go up and the sacks will go down. The season will be measured by first downs and touchdowns.

Perhaps the problem wasn't the line. Perhaps Winston suffered so many sacks because he held onto the ball waiting for a receiver too long. Perhaps the running game wasn't as good because of Martin's problems. Perhaps the line will be all better with more weapons.

We'll see.

Ah, the poor NFL.

It doesn't know what's about to hit it.

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