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Joe Hawley and Kevin Pamphile aren't replacing Logan Mankins and Evan Smith

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers don't have the worst offensive line in the NFL, and that's a massive improvement over last season. And the Bucs actually seem to have found some form of depth with Kevin Pamphile and Joe Hawley filling in admirably the last couple of games. That's led to some reactions suggesting that those two are ready to take over and replace both Logan Mankins and Evan Smith. That's a bit of an overreaction.

Hawley has been okay at center, but he hasn't exactly outperformed Evan Smith who was, himself, okay before his injury. Which is why Dirk Koetter made it clear last week that Smith would remain the starter when he returned from that injury.

Similarly, Kevin Pamphile had one decent game. It wasn't perfect, but it was okay -- and that's impressive for a second-year player who'd never lined up there. But he, too, did not look any better than Logan Mankins and his lack of experience showed at times. Mankins isn't about to get benched for "looked okay", though. While the veteran has had his issues and is clearly on the decline, he's still the better player right now. And that's what counts.

I won't be surprised if that changes next year, though. It's hard to justify paying Smith $4 million to not give you any marginal improvement over the far cheaper Hawley, while Mankins' $6.75 million in the final year of his contract will likely spell the end of his Bucs and possibly NFL career -- unless he takes a large pay cut. Though there's always the possibility that Jason Licht is just so in love with Mankins' intangibles that he can't say goodbye.

None of that is going to happen this year, though. Smith and Mankins will return from injury, likely this week, and will both start and finish the season. Barring further injury, of course.