Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp Preview: Center

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers actually have some quality depth at center, as they have two capable starters at the position: Jeff Faine and Jeremy Zuttah. Faine is the elder statesman on offense. With 8 years of playing experience, no one is more experienced than him. He is a solid but unspectacular center, whose biggest weakness is his injury-proneness, having played all 16 games in a season only twice. This injury-proneness could cost him his job, as he's scheduled to earn almost $5 Million next season. However, with a looming salary floor the Bucs will likely need his services to get to the spending minimum. Besides that, Jeff Faine is still playing well and the Bucs have no depth behind Jeremy Zuttah.

Speaking of Jeremy Zuttah, he managed to start eight games at center last season when Jeff Faine was out with injury, and looked good as both a run- and pass-blocker. Unfortunately, he did not look that good snapping the ball. In the shotgun there were a lot of errant snaps that forced Josh Freeman to reach for the ball, and at times even caused the ball to go spinning out of Josh's control entirely. In addition to that, his snaps lacked velocity, which is a minor issue but slightly delays the play as well. Of course, snapping the ball is a simple mechanical motion that can be practiced, and Zuttah should be able to fix many of these errors with an offseason of practice. 

Behind Zuttah, there's no one with any experience at the NFL level. Ted Larsen could step in at center in a pinch, as he was a center in college. The Bucs also have John Malecki on the roster, a practice squad player who is listed as a center. The Bucs could try bringing in a free agent at center, but there are few good free agent centers available. Olin Kreutz and Jonathan Goodwin headline a weak class, and both these players are nearing the end of their careers and would not represent an improvement over Jeff Faine. 

It looks like Jeff Faine will be the starting center for the Buccaneers next season. If Faine misses any time, Zuttah is likely to step in. If Zuttah then shows improvement on his snaps, don't be surprised if he takes over for Faine in the long term. Zuttah could be the Bucs' center of the future, but 2011 will be too soon for that. 

 

Previous Installments: 
Quarterbacks
Offensive Tackles
Offensive Guards

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