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.
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.
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: email@example.com