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Should J.R. Sweezy start when he comes back from injury?

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed J.R. Sweezy to be their starting left guard this offseason, but he has yet to practice even a single minute with the team, let alone play in a game.

You would expect a long-term and unexpected absence of a prize free agent signing to present significant problems for a team, but actually, none of that has happened. Mostly because 2013 fifth-round pick Kevin Pamphile has played some outstanding football this season. In fact, Dirk Koetter said today that overall, he’s been the team’s best offensive lineman.

“When we did the player evaluations at the end of five games, Kevin [Pamphile] had the highest overall grade, a five game average in the offensive line,” the Bucs head coach said. “So, what I like about his play is - what we like about his play - is he’s getting consistent movement in the run game and he’s doing a solid job in the passing game, but movement at the point of attack is what gets your run game started and Kevin’s doing a really good job of that.”

Which brings up another interesting problem: should the Bucs even move J.R. Sweezy into a starting role once he’s back? While Sweezy was certainly an expensive free agency signing, his play last season was not unequivocally positive. And while the Bucs love his talent, he certainly struggled in pass protection at times.

Normally, you’d be able to shift something along the line, but it’s unclear whether the Bucs can do that. Pamphile might be able to play left tackle, but the chances of the team benching Donovan Smith are next to zero. The most likely opening would be at center, but do they want to move Pamphile there, or perhaps right guard Ali Marpet to create an opening for Sweezy?

For now, though, those questions are mostly academic: Sweezy hasn’t even started practicing yet, and we have no idea how close he is to returning to play.