The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a new coach, a new GM, and have spread a new sense of optimism with a lot of fans, who believe the team is better now than it was under Greg Schiano. And while a change in coaching will certainly help the Bucs take a step forward in the upcoming season, is the roster in better shape than it was under Schiano, Mark Dominik and company?
This series will take a position-by-position look at the roster in Tampa Bay, and consider if the Bucs are better off now than they were just under a year ago at this time. (For consistency purposes, I have used the OurLads 2013 depth chart from June 1st, 2013 as a basis for last year's roster. Offensive linemen who play multiple positions will be listed in multiple editions of this preview series.)
We'll move next to the guard position. You may want to have a stiff drink handy.
Then Versus Now
This is what the Buccaneers' depth chart looked like at guard this time last year:
There was plenty of reason for optimism about the position heading into 2013, as the healthy return of Nicks and Joseph meant the Bucs had one of the best guard combos in the NFL, right?
We all know it didn't pan out that way, but the depth chart looked great. Jamon Meredith shifted back into a backup role, where his versatility would be put to good use, and Ted Larsen also provided the Bucs with an experienced backup at guard and center.
Here's how the depth chart looks today:
Nicks remains at the top, but his health is still somewhat of a question mark. Despite recent reports that there are no concerns about his health moving forward, it's hard to not have some doubts about his future in a Bucs uniform.
Meredith slides up one spot, although spots two through four seem to be an open competition, with the likelihood that two through four becomes one through three if Nicks can't go to start the season. Former San Francisco practice squadder Omameh and rookie Edwards have been running with the first team in minicamp, but neither brings even the slightest bit of proven experience to the offensive line.
The future really isn't all that promising looking forward at the guard position. Nicks has limited time left in his career, even if he's healthy, and Meredith and Cousins aren't going to get any better (and the latter just isn't all that good to begin with).
Omameh and Edwards have some potential due to their age and inexperience, but it's nothing to bank on for the future. Guard remains a position of severe need for the Bucs, and we'll likely see it addressed over the next couple of offseasons as Jason Licht and his front office continue to shape the roster to their liking.
I would be shocked if the depth chart shown above is the same when the season starts for the Buccaneers, as they will almost certainly bring in a veteran (or two, depending on Nicks' health) to compete or possibly start. There are experienced players at the position currently available, with more likely to hit the market as teams begin to cut down their rosters.
The health of Nicks is a big question mark for the short term future of the Bucs at guard, but the long term questions are a bit more concerning. Where are the Bucs going to go to get the guards they need to pave the way for the run game and stop the interior pressure that throws quarterbacks off their marks? At this point, there are certainly more questions than answers.
The Buccaneers are no better now than they were in 2013 at guard, as they've lost the versatile Larsen and the veteran Joseph and replaced them with unknowns. The position wasn't good at this time last year, and it's even worse now. Expect plenty of change at this spot in the coming months.