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Season in Review: Offensive Tackles

"Yeah baby! Who's fat now?"
"Yeah baby! Who's fat now?"

Donald Penn was unhappy during the offseason. He was a restricted free agent for the second year in a row, and was tendered - for the second year in a row. But Penn thought his play warranted a longterm contract. After a protracted holdout and some ugly words, including Mark Dominik essentially calling Penn too fat, the two parties surprisingly agreed to a new contract right before training camp. Penn signed a six-year, $48 Million contract with $20 Million guaranteed, although it wasn't quite as good as that. But Penn got paid, and now he could live off that and sit on his laurels like so many players do after getting a contract. 

Good thing for the Bucs, Penn doesn't like sitting on his laurels. The gigantic left tackle had the best year of his career, holding his own against quality pass rushers like John Abraham, getting push in the running game and even catching a touchdown pass - his second career reception. While Penn never looked slim, he played hard and played well consistently. Penn will never be a dominant, shut-down left tackle like Walter Jones. But those talents are rare, and Penn is good enough to anchor this line for the coming years. The position is no longer a concern for the Buccaneers, for the first time since Paul Gruber's retirement. 

The same cannot be said for the other side of the line, though. Trueblood has been the starter for years on end, but he's consistently had problems. First, it was personal fouls. Then, it was false starts and holding calls. Surprisingly, he actually cleaned up those penalties this year. Unfortunately, he couldn't improve his play. While Trueblood has always been a pretty decent run blocker, he's a liability in the passing game. He's routinely beaten around the edge, but players who can threaten the edge, then turn inside like Lamarr Woodley have a field day against him. So when he went out with injury mid-season and James Lee stepped in, I wasn't all that disappointed to see him lose his starting spot. And James Lee performed well. While the Bucs gave up something in the run game with him in, he was a much better pass blocker than Trueblood. So much better, that when Trueblood returned from injury Lee held on to his starting spot.

Despite that, the right tackle spot can easily be upgraded. I wouldn't expect the Bucs to be content with what they have at that position, although you can win with James Lee starting. It's not a high-priority need by any means, but it's still a need. 

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