Bucs hope offensive line can measure up

by Gary Shelton on May 1, 2023

in general

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

The doubts remain. The questions linger.

Even after free agency, even after the draft, even after the culling of the roster (and coaching staff), it is easy to look at the Tampa Bay Bucs and wonder. There are too many holes, too many flaws, for this team to figure as a contender.

Yeah, the Bucs have answered some of their questions. But not all of them. Nationally, the impression is that when Tom Brady retired, and stayed retired, he turned off the light on the franchise.

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Oh, not all fans agree, of course. There is a segment of the Bucs' faithful that sees a team that contends in the NFC South (that's like being the toughest kid in the chess club). Those fans believe even when there are few reasons for it.

Ah, but why are there questions?

No, it's not because of the draft. The closer you look at the guys the Bucs picked, the more you can see possibilities. Sure, some of them are too light (Calijah Kancey), some are too raw (YaYa Diaby), some of too small ( SirVocea Dennis), but the Bucs have given themselves to have a chance at being deeper and faster.

No, it's not because of the quarterback. Well, it's partially because of the quarterback. Baker Mayfield's career has been stuck in the mud for a long time. And Kyle Trask really hasn’t had a career at all. Oh, well. At least they have the last-ranked rushing offense in the league to rely on.

No, it isn't because of Devin White, although criticism seems to find White a lot lately. Granted, he’s part of a defense that spends a lot of games not looking as good as the team is rated.

No, the place where the Bucs' need work is on the offensive line. Joe Gilbert, the coach, has some magic to do.

Think about it.

At center, you have Ryan Jensen, who missed almost all of last season.

At guard, you have Cody Mauch, a small college guy who is projected as an immediate starter. Of course, that didn't work with Luke Goedeke last year, dd it.

At tackle, you have Tristan Wirfs, playing a new position. Does anyone remember Kenyatta Walker’s struggles as he tried to move to left tackle?

At guard, you have Robert Hainsey, last year's center.

At tackle, you have Goedeke, who the Bucs think will be better outside than he was inside.

Of course, you kind of figure that general Manager Jason Licht has something gulp is sleeve. Maybe it's bringing back Donovan Smith. Maybe it's obtaining Jonah Williams from the Bengals.

Ah, but neither Smith nor Williams was very good last year, and both would make a big pile of money while the team is down to little piles.

The best offensive lines mature as a unit. They go through the wars together, and they jell, and they attack.

This line is a long way from that one.

As of May, it is the weakest spot on the roster. Even worse than the running game.

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