Once again, Bucs hope their line can perform

by Gary Shelton on August 18, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Marpet is changig positions again./CARMEN MANDATO

Marpet is changing positions again./CARMEN MANDATO

Saturday, 2 a.m.

Just asking, but is an offensive line supposed to be this offensive?

All these years, and the Bucs continue to search. Historically, they are Paul Gruber and the Pips, a battered bunch holding on for dear life. Even in their Super Bowl-winning season -- a long time ago -- they were made up of spackle and bailing wire, held together by fishing line and old chewing gum.

As the Bucs enter their second preseason game tonight, the offensive line remains an issue.

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Donovan Smith is still proving himself./CARMEN MANDATO

Donovan Smith is still proving himself./CARMEN MANDATO

A week ago, the dropoff in lines was noticeable, which hints of a desperate lack of depth. Running back Ronald Jones, the second-rounder who is supposed to be an impact player, managed only nine yards on eight carries.

And here we go again.

Going into tonight's match against the Tennessee Titans, the Bucs' line has something to prove. Doesn't it always? It has to show it can protect the quarterback. It has to show it can hold up the rush to allow deep passes. It has to open a crease or two.

Have you heard this before? Hasn't everyone?

It's an odd thing, of course. If you ask the Bucs' coaches about their offensive line, they'll tell you that all is well. But the analysts say different things. They snipe constantly at left tackle Donovan Smith. Ali Marpet is supposedly a good player, but he's on his third position in three years. Shouldn't a solid lineman have found a home by now? New center Ryan Jensen is supposed to be a beast, but he has to prove it, too. Demar Dotson has played well in the past, but you wonder if injuries have worn him down. Either Caleb Benenoch or rookie Alex Cappa will see playing time.

Right now, they seem to be one line only on paper. They haven't found a rhythm. Of course, they haven't had much time together, either.

It is the hidden weakness of the Bucs. Everyone knows the team's history at quarterback, and at placekicker, and at offensive coordinator. But aside from Gruber, who is the last keeper of an offensive lineman? There have been too many Kenyatta "Pinata' Walkers, too many Charles McRaes, too many Anthony Collinses. Every regime seems to start over, and every quarterback wears bruises because of it.

Make no mistake, then. This line needs to be better. Last. year, starting running back Doug Martin averaged 2.9 yards per carry. Quarterback Jameis Winston was sacked 33 times (and pressured countless other times).

Think of it: Who are the best Bucs' offensive linemen ever?

Well, there was Gruber, who is in the Ring of Honor. There was Tony Mayberry,the center who made three Pro Bowls (one at the end of his career). There were Randall McDaniel and Jeff Christy, who made it despite their better days being past.

And here's the thing: No Buc lineman has made the Pro Bowl since 2000. That's longer ago than even winning the Super Bowl. Derrick Brooks has made eight Pro Bowls (and been retired for 10 seasons) since an offensive line made the Pro Bowl.

Hey, the team will tell you that Logan Mankins was the last rough-and-tumble lineman the Bucs have had. But who is the last strong guy they had on the line? Who is the last overachiever? Who is the last discovered gem? Who is the last technician?

Frankly, it's time the Bucs found one or two of those guys.


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