Even the Buccaneers will admit that the overall play of their offensive line slipped a bit last year.
After allowing just 27 sacks the year before the Bucs line surrendered 35 in 2016. Meanwhile, Bucs running backs, who gained an average of 4.8 yards per carry in 2015, fifth best in the NFL, gained just 3.6 yards per carry last year, 28th in the NFL.
The slide has Bucs fans everywhere suggesting the Bucs should make some potentially drastic changes up front, such as moving second-year left tackle Donovan Smith to right tackle or the bench, or drafting a new potential starter somewhere early in the draft.
The Bucs have contemplated all the possibilities, according to general manager Jason Licht, and decided that drastic changes are not needed. In fact, with guard J.R. Sweezy expected to return from his year lost to a back injury, the Bucs actually feel good about the state of their line.
“We are not down on our offense of line at all,’’ Licht said. “There are some things we need to clean up a little bit, like with penalties, but overall, we’re good. We’re happy with our offense of line. We’re in a good place in our mindset with our offense of line.’’
As good as the Bucs feel about their line here are still some lingering questions about the makeup of the unit going forward. Licht and Bucs coach Dirk Koetter have both said there are no plans to move Smith, so you can get that idea out of your head.
The Bucs also remain pleased with the play of right tackle Demar Dotson and of course right guard Ali Marpet (above). They were also very pleased with how Kevin Pamphile filled in for Sweezy in an emergency situation last year at left guard. The question that has to be answered is who will play center.
The Bucs are still contemplating bringing last year’s starter, Joe Hawley, back but they’d like to get a little bigger there if they can which is why they are contemplating moving either Marpet or Pamphile to center and moving Sweezy into the vacancy that’s left at guard.
Sweezy played right guard for the four years he started for the Seahawks before joining the Bucs so he could easily step in there and allow for Marpet to be moved to center, a position the Bucs have long thought he might be best suited for long term.
The Bucs may also go back to their original plan of moving Sweezy to left guard and move Pamphile to center. Whatever the choice, the Bucs feel confident they can make it all work and work better than it did a yaer ago with the players they already have.
“There’s no doubt we need to make some improvements there but we’re definitely capable,’’ Licht said, “We have the right individuals, the right foundation there. We always want to add depth but we feel pretty good about the group we have.’’