Bucs offensive line still a big question mark
This is part three of our Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp preview. In this piece we look at the Buccaneer offensive line.
The Buccaneer offensive was the worst performing position group of the offense and one of the worst performing units on the team during the 2018 season.
The poor play of the offensive line led to the Bucs running being one of the worst in the league averaging just 95 years per game. With the offensive line ranked 24th in the league by the folks at Pro Football Focus, the front office did nothing to improve the offensive line.
They did sign guard Earl Watford to a one year deal, but he will not be a starter unless there is an injury.
The Bucs are preparing to start Donovan Smith at left tackle. Hard to believe that Smith fleeced the Buccaneers for that huge contract extension this off-season signing a three year deal worth 41 Million dollars.
Smith has been one of the worst offensive tackles in the league since being drafted out of Penn State in 2015 allowing over 40 quarterback pressures every year the last four seasons and according to Pro Football Focus has allowed 49 pressures in three out of the last four seasons.
Smith was rated number 46 out of all the offensive tackles in football.
The left guard Ali Marpet was the best offensive lineman in Tampa last season and was rated the 8th best offensive guard in the NFL last season. Marpet was also just recently touted as the most underrated interior linemen in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.
Marpet moved from center to left guard last season after playing his first two seasons at right guard. Marpet had the highest rating of any Buccaneer offensive lineman and will be counted on again this season to be the anchor on the offensive line.
Ryan Jensen will be back at center. Jensen is coming off one of his worst seasons in his career as he was called for a career high 11 penalties last season. Coming off a Pro Bowl season in 2017 with Baltimore, Jensen was looked upon as a linemen that would add a veteran physical presence to a struggling offensive line.
Jensen gave up a career high 25 quarterback pressures last season and along with Marpet will be two major pieces to get the running game going in 2019.
Caleb Benenoch, Alex Cappa, and Demar Dotson will enter training camp battling out for starting spots on the right side of the offensive line. Benenoch started all 16 games in 2018 but was just the 73rd rated guard in the NFL. According to Pro football focus, Benenoch was one of the lowest rated run blocking guards in the NFL.
Earl Watford the free agent signee from Arizona will give Benenoch some competition in training camp.
Demar Dotson has started 26 of 32 games these last two seasons. Dotson has played with some nagging injuries the last two seasons and the Bucs have to start thinking about acquiring a replacement for Dotson through the draft or free agency.
Coach Bruce Arians said during the last day of mini-camp that the offensive line was an area of concern and if one of the starters went down the Bucs would be scrambling.
During all of the off season workouts, the Bucs offensive line was not able to practice together once. That should not give any one a good feeling going into 2019.
One of the major concerns is the learning curve of second year player Alex Cappa. According to Jena Laine of ESPN Cappa, who the Bucs drafted from Humboldt State in the 2018 draft has been a disappointment in off-season workouts and is not picking things up from the new coaching staff as quickly as he needs to. There is a chance that Cappa is not ready to seat on week one.
Evan Smith, Cole Boozer, and Josh LeRibeus, along with Cappa, and Rueben Holcomb will enter camp as the backups along the offensive line.
From pass blocking to run blocking, this offensive line will have to make a major improvement if the Bucs offense is to have the success that is expected in 2019.