There’s a common belief that it’s more important to have continuity along the offensive line than individual talent, but Lovie Smith doesn’t see it that way.
“I don’t believe that at all,” Smith said Thursday. “Okay, if (a guy) plays well on the offensive line, then that means all five have played the same way? No. You look at them individually.”
The topic of of who starts along the O-Line has become a popular one at One Buc Place. Demar Dotson, the incumbent right tackle, has officially returned to practice and is “back in the mix,” Smith said. But with the unit’s recent success as a whole, some wondered if changing the lineup could disturb its growth. Now, however, we know that individual play trumps continuity.
“It’s great when you have five guys, individually, who are playing well,” Smith said. “But if four or three are playing well and there are two other guys who give you a better chance, you plug those guys in. It’s a group, just like the D-Line and secondary, but we don’t look at it that way.”
Still, the Bucs will have a difficult decision to make when Dotson is healthy and ready for game action. While the 6-foot-9 Mississippi native was Tampa Bay’s best lineman last year, Gosder Cherilus has played well, and one would have to think he’s made a case to remain the starting right tackle.
Bucs RT Gosder Cherilus – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Only time will tell who starts when Dotson officially returns, but according to the head coach, it will depend on their own performance.
“It’s a tough decision when you have two players (Dotson and Cherilus) that you like and think you can win with,” Smith said. “But it’s still the guy who you think gives you the best chance to win. If you have two players who are ready to go, you evaluate those two. If that means you keep the same group you kept in previous weeks, that’s fine. But if there’s somebody better and they’re healthy and ready to go, put them in there.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
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As of right now I’d leave the OL alone. We might see it differently by half time because we are playing a good team. No matter what I’d let Dotson play a series or two based on getting him ready to go if another OL goes down.
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I think we might see Dotson coming in a few drives to give Cherilus a breather and also to see what he can do now that he is 100. I would also expect to see Dotson as the 6th man on the line at times, when they go heavy run.
Wow, what a dilemma to have. We have two starters from the beginning of the season sitting on the bench wanting to play. My how times have changed.
Good problem to have.
Cherilus has had one really good game and one really terrible game and has settled into being below average. No way he starts over Dotson.
I’m pretty sure they are first and foremost evaluating Dotson’s health and stamina on the practice field. Once it has been determined that he is physically ready, I believe he will be given a number of plays, maybe as early as this week, and let the game tape decide who lines up against the Cowboys. With Evan Smith returning to health and remaining sidelined, looks like maybe the choice has already been made at center.
There’s a good reason why the Bucs were able to pick up Cherilus, Tim Jennings, and Tony McDaniel for very little before the season started: they’re almost over the hill. If Dotson’s knee truly is healed, he’ll be an upgrade over the Cherilus. It’s hard to play at the same old level after players hit 30. Every once in a while an exception comes along for a position that doesn’t depend as much on speed, strength, or agility, but the rule still holds for most players. I’m 45 and still play soccer, so I feel this every day I play or practice.
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