The PR Bucs Monday Mailbag is where PewterReport.com’s Mark Cook answers your questions from our Twitter account. You can submit your question each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag.

Below are the questions we chose for this week’s edition of the PR Bucs Monday Mailbag.

Question: Your thoughts on the Bucs’ O-line – from what I’ve read and seen from media members and you guys, not looking great?

Answer: Well, it is a work in progress. I don’t put a whole lot of stock in practicing without pads, but we did get to see them on Sunday for the first time with pads on, and it was a mixed bag performance.

OLB Noah Spence and T Donovan Smith – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PewterReport.co

Left guard Ali Marpet has looked the best so far and should be in the talks for a Pro Bowl if he can stay healthy. He is in great shape and has been pretty dominant from what I have seen. He picked up a blitzing Deone Buccanon on one play over the weekend and stonewalled him then sent him flying backwards.

Right tackle Demar Dotson is definitely healthier than he was last year at this time and it shows. Dotson is a veteran and knows a lot of the veteran tricks and doesn’t always kill himself in practice, but he is working hard and looks to be improved over last season.

Center Ryan Jensen had been solid, very much a tactician with a mean streak and has already had one scuffle in practice. That will come soon enough, however. By the two week mark of camp, on a hot random Tuesday somewhere down the road in the near future, tired of banging heads with Vita Vea, the ginger will have to tangle up with someone again.

Right guard Alex Cappa has been okay. Not spectacular but with a year under his belt, he is more comfortable than where he was at this time last season. We need to see more fully padded practices to really get a grasp on Cappa.

Left tackle is been the roughest position so far in our opinion. Noah Spence rocked Donovan Smith twice on Saturday, sending him on his back two times on the afternoon. Smith sat out Sunday’s practice, the first in full pads, with a dinged Achilles heel, and Caleb Benenoch was the first man off the bench, which wasn’t a good sign. Benenoch gave good effort, but there was at least four instances where he was on the ground after the play was over. Not good.

Head coach Bruce Arians has told defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to bring all the pressure he can it appears, as blitzes are coming from all over the field, overwhelming the O-line at times. It has been fun to watch if you like defense – not so much if you are an offensive line fan. But the coaching is better, so the O-line play will improve. And going up against Bowles scheme should help prepare the offensive line for most anything it might see this season – at least from a blitz pickup perspective.

Question: It’s early in training camp but how concerning is that Jameis Winston is off to such a shaky start with all the interceptions and near-picks? From what you guys are seeing is it more about the new aggressive looks being thrown at him on D or just the same ol’ Jameis making bad decisions?

Answer: At this point I have no concern at all. From what we see and have been told, it looks like the offensive coaches are telling Winston to force some things in order to help the defensive coaches know what they have in their young defensive backs. Bowles has been bringing pressure from all areas and some of that may be to try and put tremendous pressure on Winston mentally to see how he reacts.

QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PewterReport.com

And the defense should probably be a little bit ahead at this point in camp. They’ve been through the offseason now, know Winston’s tendencies and can sit on some of the receiver’s routes with confidence.

If Winston goes out in the third preseason game against Cleveland and tosses three interceptions, then the worry and concern will be real. For now, Arians said Winston is where he should be, if not a little ahead. I am going to go with Coach on this one.

Question: Should the Bucs go after defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche even though he’s “overweight” and plug him in at nose? Maybe B.A. can salvage some talent from his former draft pick?

Answer: I don’t really see that happening. Vita Vea is the team’s nose tackle. Talent can be salvageable but only if the talented player is willing to work. Robert Nkemdiche hasn’t shown much of that dating back to his college days at Ole Miss. And then to show up to camp overweight and out of shape with a new coaching staff? That tells me this guy wants to just try and coast on his God-given ability instead of striving to be better. The Bucs don’t need that.

Add in the fact he is coming off an ACL injury last December and was arrested twice this offseason, Nkemdiche doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Buccaneers at this point in my opinion. He doesn’t seem like an Arians-type guy or a good fit for Tampa Bay’s locker room.

Question: What would you say is your favorite and least favorite thing about training camp?

Answer: The favorite part of camp for me is when the pads come on and we get to see the battles in the trenches. The boys are separated from the men pretty quickly when this happens. Hopefully we will see some really good one-on-one O-line vs. D-line battles this camp.

I also like seeing young no-name players get better each day and end up coming out of nowhere to become significant contributors. Adam Humphries and Alan Cross were two guys not really given much of a chance over the last couple of years, yet they made the most of their opportunities.

Easily my least favorite thing about camp is the injuries. Seeing safety Orion Stewart go down on Sunday less that 20 feet from where I was sitting and the painful screams were tough to listen to and witness. Here is a guy, who despite being a long shot to make the team, and who has trained essentially his entire life for this chance, only to see his season possibly over after just the third day in camp. Injuries happen, but it never gets easier watching a player’s life-long dream slip away due to an awkward landing or just plain bad luck.

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Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]

10 COMMENTS

  1. LT has been the BIG problem for 5 years now…every single beat writer has mentioned that in writing about teh Bucs OL concerns….even more than RG, which we all know is a basket case. Benenoch spelling D Smith is a nightmare! Licht created a huge mess!

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  2. @eastendboy PFF graded Smith as an above average OT last season, so I think the concerns with him are a little overblown. The lack of depth is certainly concerning though…so in that case you are correct about Licht. But to not replace Smith makes sense…only so many players can be replaced each year…having an average LT isn’t a death sentence to the OL. But we should be addressing the other weak spots on it. Hopefully when cuts start coming down around the league, we’ll find a suitable upgrade at RG and maybe even some additional depth. Benenoch really shouldn’t be relied upon to be the first guy off the bench at any position.

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  3. Lack of depth at OL is a problem because you have no one pushing the starters who as a group have been average at best.

    Had the Bucs had a 2nd round tackle waiting in the wings they may have not needed to re-sign D. Smith. Or even a guard drafted this year that could compete with Watford, Bailey, and Cappa.

    That is why drafting OL depth is really drafting your “future” starter and you can never invest enough draft capital on the OL in the salary cap era.

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  4. The line has sucked, does suck and will suck all year. You have to draft O lineman 1st or 2nd round year in and year out. Donovan Smith needs a lot of help around him. He’s not that good. Licht drafts this small school crap that makes him think he’s outwitted the rest of the teams. He hasn’t. He’s still a terrible GM that was lucky enough to know Arians and sell the idea he could get Arians to come here. He did that but that doesn’t make him good evaluator of talent or drafter of productive players.

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  5. Mark, always appreciate the Monday Mail Bag. Not a big fan of your suggestion that Ryan Jensen will have a scuffle later on in camp. (Though I have no doubts that you are right) Jensen cost the Bucs drives with his loss of control several times last year. We need his mean streak and aggressive play but not his stupid play. There is footage of BA in the meeting room with the players saying the following, We do not fight at practice. We practice how we play. you fight in a game you get ejected. You fight at practice and the whole team runs.
    This is a big difference from last years ideology of, well that’s just a part of football. It is as much a part of the culture change as any other aspect we are seeing and I love it. I’m tired of watching my Bucs, with all their talent, beat themselves Every Sunday.

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  6. Totally agree MJ Moody! Jensen better not get the penalties he did last year. D. Smith kept holding the speed rushers because he couldn’t block them and his penalties stopped drives. That has to stop and BA can have a TE chip block every speed rusher D. Smith faces and we will get by.

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  7. It’s common for the defense to dominate early in training camp, especially with new systems. I think offense will be just fine. I’m glad to see defense doing well. Go Bucs!

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  8. Fourth highest paid O line in the NFL, just keep that in mind.

    Marpet is the only solid guy we have. Jensen possibly a number two. The rest, worthless.

    Keep blaming running backs guys. Put Lev Bell back there and you’d get the same performance.

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  9. The offense can run plenty of plays that keep the aggressiveness of outside speed rushers at bay. For example, they can double, they can chip, they can screen, they can throw quick passes, and they can trap. I’m not worried about Smith giving up 5 or 6 sacks.

    One thing I am happy as hell about is Spence showing the coaches he can play 3-4 OLB.

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  10. Big sombrero is Right! Leftwich can counter any of these Attacks guys, these coaches want to see how these players react under the Gun.

    Let’s sit back and enjoy the Show!

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