On the roster: Jeremy Zuttah, Davin Joseph, Carl Nicks, Ted Larsen, Adam Smith, Desmond Wynn, Jamon Meredith
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have one of the league's best interior offensive lines, on paper at least. Carl Nicks is one of the very best offensive guards in the NFL, and someone who would be named an All-Pro every year if he was healthy. Davin Joseph has been to two Pro Bowls and is a nasty mauler of a guard who can more than hold his own in pass protection. Jeremy Zuttah is not an All-Pro at center, but he's a solid professional who produces solid games week after week and has the versatility to play both guard spots adequately.
And for once, the Bucs actually have decent depth at this position. Ted Larsen isn't a great player, but he played well at center last season and can play guard, though he's not great at that position. Jamon Meredith was previously a mediocre tackle at best, but held his own when asked to step in until late in the season, when the offensive line as a whole seemed to collapse. The Bucs won't feel secure if one of their starters suffers an injury, but they have better depth at these positions than most NFL teams.
A history of injury problems
The Buccaneers are likely to need that depth, sadly, because they have suffered injury issues along the interior offensive line for every season since Jon Gruden was fired. The Bucs have seen a whopping nine different starters over those four years, most of those changes being forced by injuries. What looks like a strength now could easily turn into a weakness once the season rolls around.
Davin Joseph missed the entire 2012 season with a knee injury, while Carl Nicks made it to four games before he had to give because of a nasty foot injury. Even if those two return to form, and that's no certainty, can they make it a full season? And if they can't, how big of a dropoff will we see on offense? The offense was productive last season despite the loss of both guards, but really struggled down the stretch, and weak offensive line play was certainly a factor in those performances.
Those injury problems have made two players very important: Ted Larsen and Jeremy Zuttah. Both of them have the ability to play either guard spot as well as center, which makes them indispensable in case of injury. Their ability to play multiple spots allows the Buccaneers to carry fewer offensive linemen on the roster, freeing up roster spots elsewhere.
Jamon Meredith has that same ability, more or less. While he's never shown that he can play either left guard or center, he can play offensive tackle -- though he hasn't been good at that in his career so far. Still, the fact that he can play tackle makes it likely that he makes the roster.
The other two backups are basically unknowns at this point. Desmond Wynn played college football at Rutgers under Greg Schiano and entered the league as an undrafted free agent last year. He spent the year on injured reserve. Meanwhile, Adam Smith is an undrafted free agent out of Western Kentucky about whom I essentially know nothing. So, hey, who knows. Maybe they surprise in training camp.
Projected roster: Carl Nicks, Jeremy Zuttah, Davin Joseph, Ted Larsen, Jamon Meredith (G/T)
Check out the rest of our position previews right here.