The NFL Owners Meeting in Orlando, Florida had a busy media day on Tuesday, and for Bucs fans, that started with their head coach Dirk Koetter holding court for the local Tampa Bay media at the coaches breakfast.
There aren’t many opportunities for the media and, in turn the fans, to hear from their team’s head coach. During the offseason, minus a few press conferences that only happen due to extensions of franchise players, you really don’t hear from head coaches until these meeting availabilities.
Because of this, the sit-downs with each team’s head coach goes on for about an hour, and media members from all different outlets take advantage of every minute of that opportunity, including PewterReport.com
Bucs C Ali Marpet – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The big news out of the vast topics of questions was when Koetter told the media that not only will offensive lineman Ali Marpet be moving back to guard with the addition of free agent signing Ryan Jensen, but that he’ll be moving to left guard, not right guard — or at least that’s the plan right now.
“Ali (Marpet) is going to play left guard,” Koetter said. “We are going to play Ali next to Donovan Smith… There is not a technical reason. Ali is like Evan Smith that he can play any of the three inside spots. So it will really come down to who we want at the other spot. And right now, as we are sitting at this table today, J.R. played right guard last year, so that is how we would leave it. But that could still change based on the factors we have already talked about.”
Marpet started his career at right guard for his first two NFL seasons, and he played that position at a very high level. In 2017, the Bucs moved Marpet to center in their quest to get “the best five players on the field” along the offensive line. There was a learning curve for Marpet at center, but he performed well, though not as stout as he did at guard, his more natural position.
Marpet moving to left guard instead of right guard is likely due to the fact that the Bucs still hope to get a starter out of J.R. Sweezy, who was played exclusively right guard as a starter throughout his NFL career. Sweezy was signed by the Buccaneers in 2016, but was unable to play his entire first season as a Buccaneer because of back surgery. He returned in 2017, but for a variety of reasons, likely involving both health and lack of playing time for over a calendar year, Sweezy was not his bulldozing self from his days as a Seahawk.
Sweezy has not been medically cleared yet coming off his leg injury from 2018, but, for now, they’re not giving up on him.
The Bucs spent a fifth-round pick on Caleb Benenoch but he’s no lock to be retained. – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
As for a possible solution if Sweezy can’t get back to form, Koetter said Caleb Benenoch will likely be the wild card for the offensive line in 2018.
“The wild card in that is Caleb Benenoch,” Koetter said. “We have invested a couple years in Caleb right now, and Caleb has played a lot of positions on the offensive line. He has basically played every position but center at one time or another and also the flexibility of bringing Even Smith back we have some options.”
They believe Benencoch is a player who can step in at guard or tackle, and that includes in a starting role.
“The one thing we feel like from watching Caleb’s tape is, if it would ever be possible to put Caleb in a spot and leave him there, it would probably help him. Because Caleb is one of those guys that has been moved around so much he can never get used to playing – one week he is playing left guard and the next he is the right tackle – I think there is an art to that. We have high hopes for Caleb and again, we still have the draft.”
It sounds like though the Bucs aren’t out of the market in improving their offensive line before the 2018 season, if they had to go into the year with the guys they have right now, they believe they could get it done.
Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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