We're evaluating every position group on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster ahead of training camp. Today: the interior offensive line -- guards and centers.
2014 roster: Logan Mankins, Evan Smith, Garrett Gilkey, Oniel Cousins, Patrick Omameh, Josh Allen, Kadeem Edwards
2015 roster: Logan Mankins, Evan Smith, Ali Marpet, Kadeem Edwards, Garrett Gilkey, Patrick Omameh, Josh Allen, Antoine Everett, Matthew Masifilo, Jeremiah Warren
This was arguably the weakest position group on the entire Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster last year. Logan Mankins played pretty badly for most of the first half of the season, improving to mediocre over the second half. Evan Smith was serviceable at best, and a downright liability at times. But the real problem was the right guard position: no matter who the Bucs suited up there, it was a massive disaster. Oniel Cousins was bad, Garrett Gilkey was worse, Patrick Omameh couldn't do any better and defensive tackles just blew by everyone like they weren't there.
Enter 2015 and the massive investment the Bucs made at the right guard position. Oh, wait, that investment consists of one player (second-round pick Ali Marpet), who at this point isn't even expected to start the season. Is there reason to believe the Bucs have really gotten better at this position then?
Well, yes. For one, Kadeem Edwards is now healthy, which means the second-year player might help shore up the position. For two, Evan Smith was not as bad as he looked last year. For three, Logan Mankins has looked better this offseason and may be able to stave off the effects of old age for one more season. Maybe. Most importantly, Ali Marpet has the physical talent to turn into a very good offensive guard in the NFL -- he only needs to adjust to the new level of competition, given that he played his college ball at the D-III level.
All of that to say that the Buccaneers do look better at their interior offensive line, with a bunch of caveats. This position group could end up going either way, but it's not encouraging that it's largely the same as last year.