We’re going through the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster position by position to see if they improved compared to last year. Today: interior offensive line.
2015 roster: Logan Mankins, Ali Marpet, Evan Smith, Joe Hawley, Kevin Pamphile, Josh Allen, Garrett Gilkey, Ben Gottschalk
2016 roster: J.R. Sweezy, Ali Marpet, Evan Smith, Joe Hawley, Kevin Pamphile, Josh Allen, Ben Gottschalk, Dominique Robertson, Caleb Benenoch.
The Bucs made just one move along the interior offensive line this offseason: they signed J.R. Sweezy to replace Logan Mankins, who retired instead of spending another year in Tampa’s heat. Sweezy comes over from Seattle and reportedly drew heavy interest in free agency, even though most third-party analysts (and my own eyes) seem to think he’s talented but also very inconsistent. That describes a lot of the Bucs’ linemen, though, as they seem to have taken a liking to physical talent over polished technique and consistency. The fact that Sweezy is out with a supposedly minor injury until at least the start of training camp doesn’t exactly help.
Opposite Sweezy, the Bucs have last year’s revelatory second-round pick Ali Marpet. The small-school player more than held his own as a rookie right guard, and showed that he has the potential to be one of the very best guards in the NFL. So that should be good. At center, Evan Smith is trying to beat out Joe Hawley, who came in late and Wally Pipp’d Smith in 2015. Both players are somewhat interchangeable, with Hawley perhaps a little bit better and more consistent. Whoever loses out will provide some solid depth.
Speaking of depth: meet Kevin Pamphile, the ultimate swing lineman who can play every single position the offensive line. The former fifth-round pick has looked good whenever he’s been asked to play guard, though he’s looked a little rough at either tackle spot. This year’s fifth-round pick Caleb Benenoch adds even more talent and depth to an already pretty strong group.
All in all, the Bucs have a very solid group of interior linemen, with a few question marks. They also have depth. But these are things they had last year, too, and Sweezy probably represents a step down from Mankins, who had a very good final season in the NFL. In all, I think the Bucs are slightly worse at this position than they were last year.