Bucs G Caleb Benenoch – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
For as good as the Bucs were Sunday, dominating the Bears 36-10 to earn their first home victory of the season, one position group was still a bit shaky.
The offensive line didn’t have its best day, as one could’ve predicted. Without center Joe Hawley, sidelined with a knee injury, and guard Kevin Pamphile, out with a concussion, the Bucs were already short on starting linemen entering the game. A knee injury to utility guard/center Evan Smith six plays in only made things worse.
“We consider Evan Smith a starter so, in essence, after six plays we were down three starters on the O-line,” head coach Dirk Koetter said Monday.
Tampa Bay had two linemen playing in their first NFL game in center Ben Gottschalk and guard Caleb Benenoch. The former was pulled off the practice squad last week and graded out well from Koetter in his first start.
“He got very little time with the first offense,” Koetter said of Gottschalk in the practice week leading up. “To go out there, and play 69 plays like he did, I thought Ben filled in admirably.”
Benenoch, on the other hand, had an uninspiring debut. The fifth-round pick out of UCLA missed most of OTAs due to school requirements that kept him from joining the team early. He also missed time after sustaining a foot injury in August. Neither setback was lost on Koetter, who despite acknowledging a tough outing still has confidence in Benenoch.
“That was his first start as a rookie and it was well-documented that Caleb missed most of OTAs because of the school thing at UCLA, the semester rule,” Koetter said. “And then he was hurt for a part of preseason.
“Caleb had kind of a rocky debut,” he said. “He’s going to look back on this someday. We have very high hopes and high expectations for Caleb, but that wasn’t one of his better days.”
The Bears sacked Jameis Winston four times and left the quarterback running for his life on other occasions. Similarly, Chicago’s defensive line often closed running lanes immediately after the handoff. Doug Martin was held to 33 yards on 16 carries while Peyton Barber managed 38 on 12.
Going forward, there’s uncertainty along the Bucs offensive line. An MRI revealed a sprain that’s likely to keep Smith out for 2-4 weeks, while Koetter called the return of J.R. Sweezy, who signed in March but was placed on PUP after back surgery, “doubtful.” This is the last week the Bucs can bring Sweezy back to practice and off the PUP list.
“I’m really doubtful that he would be back out there practicing,” Koetter said of Sweezy. “I’ve been given no indication that that’s forthcoming.”
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.
Contact him at: [email protected]
Zach, I think you meant Gottschalk not Benenoch who played in 69 snaps and played admirably?
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