The Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs in the first round to replace Demar Dotson as the team’s starting right tackle this year. But without a rookie mini-camp, OTAs, a mandatory mini-camp or a preseason this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wirfs will have just two weeks – 14 padded practices in total – to prepare for his rookie debut in New Orleans in Week 1.

The lack of preparation time due to the coronavirus outbreak this year may force the team to change its plans for the season opener and start veteran newcomer Joe Haeg at right tackle instead.

The reason?

Saints DE Cameron Jordan

Saints DE Cameron Jordan – Photo by: Getty Images

Tampa Bay’s right tackle – whoever it is – will be facing Saints five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan, who had a career-high 15.5 sacks last year. Jordan has 87 sacks in his nine-year NFL career, including double-digit sacks in each of the last three seasons. Jordan notched 2.5 sacks and six QB hits in two games against Tampa Bay last year – both of which were victories by New Orleans.

“That’s not a problem – we know what Joe is,” Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said. “We’ve got film on Joe. He’s got a resume. Tristan, we’ll see in pads. If he’s not ready, we’ll play Joe. It’s not a big deal. We’re gonna play the guys that are most ready to play that ball game at every position.”

The 6-foot-5, 320-pound Wirfs has the size, physicality and athleticism to match up against the 6-foot-4, 287-pound Jordan, but definitely not the experience. Haeg, a 6-foot-6, 298-pound lineman, who was signed from Indianapolis in the offseason, is entering his fifth year in the league and has played in 55 games with 35 career starts. Haeg didn’t start any games last year, but did start six of the eight games he played in during the 2018 season.

The Bucs start practicing in full pads on Monday and the coaching staff will have a much better feel of how quickly Wirfs has picked up the offense and how prepared he is to play right away by the end of the two-week training camp.

Wirfs vs. Haeg was the Camp Battle To Watch in PewterReport.com’s recently published Bucs 2020 Training Camp Preview on the offensive line.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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TBChucky
9 months ago

Even if Haeg ends up starting week 1, I’m sure they’ll give Wirfs some meaningful snaps to get his feet wet. It’s a tough year for rookies in general. Hopefully their growth will not be stunted too much.. I’m looking forward to the pads and the live contact drills!

geno711
Reply to  TBChucky
9 months ago

I am not as sure of that.
Historically, the offensive line is a position that the coaches do not change around that much unless there is struggling there.

If Haeg is starting and the Bucs are effective, then I think the coaches might stay with that.

Of course that will make all of us fans scream about a wasted pick in Wirfs! But that is what we do as fans.

SenileSenior
9 months ago

Obviously we’ll go with the best team we can field in New Orleans on September 13th … with the guys who are most ready! That first game should be a real challenge right out of the gate. It could be a doozy!

__________________
Go Bucs!!! Win now!

surferdudes
9 months ago

Over the last three years, be it college, Wirfs has had more game snaps at right tackle then Haeg has. An inch taller, 30 pounds heavier, stronger, more agile. Let’s not forget he’ll be going hard against JPP, Shaq, Vea for the next few weeks. Not exactly chop liver. My guess is those guys will get him ready to start day one.

ScottC543
Reply to  surferdudes
8 months ago

The fastest way to learn how to play is to play.

Spitfire
9 months ago

I think at first glance this year seems like it will hurt Rookies, but honestly it could end up being the best thing for the meaningful ones. Most will not be forced into the fire right off the bat and will get an honest chance to gain experience by watching and getting in there when necessary. Then they will be able to shine in the second half of the season and still hit the ground runnin in year two. Whoever is the right person to play each game should get it anyways, so it’s all gonna just be part of… Read more »