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2011 Season in Review: Offensive Tackle

What happened in 2011

Before the season started, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had to decide on their right tackle situation. Jeremy Trueblood was a free agent (and wasn't all that good to begin with), while the Bucs probably couldn't count on James Lee to step up if need be. Instead of bringing in a free agent, the Bucs re-signed Jeremy Trueblood to a two-year, $10 million contract - a lot of money for a mediocre (at best) right tackle.

Preseason and one game late in the year showed the Bucs' 'wisdom' in re-signing Trueblood, however, as James Lee looked absolutely horrible at right tackle. Meanwhile raw project Demar Dotson looked a little better when given a chance, but he wasn't ready to take over as right tackle either. Jeremy Trueblood was pretty clearly the overall best right tackle on the roster, and he even had a relatively good year - for his standards at least. He's cleaned up the penalties, and is now mostly a liability against speed rushers while he can handle most other things fairly well.

The left side of the line didn't present nearly as big of a problem, at least, as Donald Penn had a pretty good year - with the notable exception of two games near the end of the year, when he looked horrendous. But overall Penn kept rushers away from Josh Freeman, despite facing a murderer's row of pass rush specialists: Dwight Freeney, Jared Allen, Charles Johnson, Cliff Avril, Aldon Smith, Julius Peppers and others faced off against Penn and none of them managed to make a big impact.

2012 Outlook

With both Donald Penn and Jeremy Trueblood under contract you can expect the pair of those players back. The Bucs must start thinking about Trueblood's replacement, however, and they would do well to bring in competition in training camp for the slow-footed veteran. Donald Penn has the left side locked up, but the right side is a problem. James Lee is extremely unlikely to come back after his disastrous 2011 season and Demar Dotson is probably still too raw to really push for the starting job.

2012 Options

While the Bucs have vowed to get a little more active in free agency, that likely won't happen in the form of a right tackle. The only good tackle to hit the market is Jared Gaither, and there are a lot of questions about his effectiveness and commitment to the game. Other than that the available tackles are either sub-par or very very old.

The draft is filled with quality tackles, however, and Matt Kalil is probably the best of them. If he somehow drops to the fifth overall pick the Bucs would have to think long and hard about picking the USC lineman, despite the presence of Donald Penn on the roster. But after him this class is pretty deep, with Rilery Reiff, Jonathan Martin, Mike Adams, Kelechi Osemele and Nate Potter being a few of the bigger names.

Projected depth chart

Donald Penn (left tackle), Jeremy Trueblood (right tackle), New Addition, Demar Dotson