Pewter Report's SR's Fab 5 column is out today, and it focused on a lot of interesting stuff. There's a big profile of the Bucs' scouting methods and director of player personnel Jon Robinson in there, which you should definitely read. But the bit that caught my eye the most was about Logan Mankins, and how excited the team is about the effort he's put in.
But Mankins, now 33 years old, is a man on a mission, telling the Bucs organization that he started working out earlier in the offseason than he ever did before. He showed up in April for offseason conditioning with six-pack abs - for the first time in his NFL career - which shocked the Bucs' brass, coaches and players with how he's transformed his body over the past few months.
Mankins informed Bucs management that he will make amends for last season and that he intends to prove all of his critics wrong this year. Mankins said he's driven to make the Pro Bowl in 2015 after missing it last season, which snapped a five-year streak.
The Bucs, of course, traded for Logan Mankins last year, giving up a fourth-round pick, Tim Wright and a hefty salary for an old lineman who was clearly on the decline. The result wasn't particularly surprising: his play ranged from mediocre to okay, never quite being as bad as the rest of the offensive line, but never being what you'd call "good" or "worth what they gave up," either. But apparently he still has work ethic and leadership!
That's all well and good, but winning starts with playing well. I'm sure Mankins' work ethic and approach to the game are valuable, but I'd like to see him actually play well before I start feeling confident about his value this year. Mankins was a liability for most of the early part of last season, albeit not as big of one as everyone else except Demar Dotson. He did improve later in the season, but I wouldn't call his play anything better than "okay."
And frankly, there's no real reason to believe that'll be any better this year. 33-year-old offensive linemen don't suddenly get better: they're near the end of their careers, if they haven't retired already. Under Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen, the Bucs would do their sign-a-veteran-lineman dance every year, and it never really worked. That's because age and injuries end careers in the NFL, and Mankins is a victim of both at this point, with multiple knee injuries over the past few seasons.
That's not to say that Mankins needs to be replaced this season. For one, there's no one to replace him with, or at least no one you'd be confident in to actually play better. And having a veteran on the line does add some value. Besides, it's just not going to happen: Jason Licht has repeatedly made it clear that Mankins is hear to stay for at least this year.
So sure, be excited about Mankins' locker-room role and his work ethic and leadership and grit and all the other PFT Commenter-style adjectives. But let's not get ahead of ourselves where his on-field play is concerned: the history of the NFL is littered with the bodies of men to whom all of those adjectives applied, but who simply couldn't play anymore.