We’re going through the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster position by position, to see if the Bucs improved their team compared to last year. Today: offensive tackle.
2015 roster: Donovan Smith, Demar Dotson, Kevin Pamphile, Gosder Cherilus (late addition)
2016 roster: Donovan Smith, Demar Dotson, Kevin Pamphile, Gosder Cherilus, Taylor Fallin, Kelby Johnson, Leonard Wester
The Bucs have essentially the same roster as they did last year, with one key difference: Gosder Cherilus is on the roster during the offseason, but unlikely to be there during the regular season — essentially the opposite situation the Bucs had last year, when they brought in Cherilus late in the season to replace the injured Demar Dotson. Cherilus’ $4.5 million salary and mediocre play last year will make it difficult to justify keeping him around for the regular season.
Having Dotson healthy should make the Bucs better than last year, though, as should continued improvement out of Donovan Smith. Last year’s second-round pick did reasonably well for a rookie and showed a lot of potential, but inconsistent technique and occasionally slow feet made for a lot of poor play as well. The Bucs are convinced he’ll correct that and his athletic talent will eventually turn him into a very good left tackle, but the jury’s out on whether that will actually happen.
Kevin Pamphile proved himself to be a quality guard last season, and still has the talent to be a good backup at tackle — and perhaps even a long-term starter on the right side of the line. Of the undrafted free agents, the Bucs gave Leonard Wester a relatively big signing bonus, so they obviously expect something out of him.
Overall, the Bucs should be slightly better at tackle this year than they were last year — if only because Dotson should be healthy.