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Buccaneers offensive line has been much-improved, despite injuries

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had what was probably the worst offensive line in the NFL. Despite that, they didn't thoroughly overhaul it this offseason: Logan Mankins, Evan Smith and Demar Dotson were retained as starters, with the addition of Donovan Smith at left tackle and Ali Marpet at right guard the only significant moves to help the starting line. Starting two rookies to make your line better isn't usually a recipe for success.

Of course, that didn't last long. Demar Dotson has been out with a knee injury and is unlikely to return before week eight. Evan Smith has missed the past two games, and Mankins missed the last game. In addition, Donovan Smith has really struggled to keep up in pass protection -- the only true bright spot on the line has been Ali Marpet, who's seemingly getting better every game.

But despite all of those issues, the offensive line has held up admirably, in no small part because of the Bucs' efforts to help them out. While the linemen have certainly played better than last year, Dirk Koetter has also anticipated and compensated for their deficiencies far more efficiently. Tampa Bay routinely keeps extra blockers in and uses backs and tight ends to chip pass rushers, while screen passes and three-step drops help neuter the effects of a leaky offensive line.

Another major factor in the Bucs offensive improvement is the fact that Doug Martin and Charles Sims are playing far better football than they were last  year. Good backs make their offensive line look better than it is by pressing the hole, finding seams and making people miss. Both backs are doing that with some consistency now.

None of that is to say that the Bucs are good enough, though. They rank 31st in Football Outsiders' DVOA, and most of their production has come in just one game. Still, the performance of the offensive line while not dominant has still been encouraging -- as has the team's ability to handle the inevitable problems.