The biggest change to the Bucs roster this offseason has undoubtedly come at guard.
After his first Pro Bowl season, left guard Ali Marpet suddenly retired while still in his prime. Right guard Alex Cappa left for a richer contract in Cincinnati in free agency.
Bucs general manager Jason Licht replaced Cappa by trading a fifth-round pick for New England right guard Shaq Mason. Most believe that move was an upgrade.
Replacing Marpet won’t be as easy. There will be at least a three-man competition in training camp between Aaron Stinnie, Robert Hainsey and Nick Leverett to fill Marpet’s vacancy at left guard.
That means the hardest working assistant coach will be offensive line coach Joe Gilbert. He focuses on the interior offensive linemen, while assistant coach/run game coordinator Harold Goodwin works with the tackles.
Attending the Arians Family Foundation golf outing this week, Gilbert shared his thoughts on the new outlook at the guard positions.
Bucs G Shaq Mason – Photo by: USA Today
“We’ve got Shaq coming in at right guard,” Gilbert said. “We feel really, really good about him.”
Gilbert also said he believes that acquiring Mason improved the right guard spot.
On the other side of the line it’s much more open-ended. Stinnie, who was re-signed to a one-year deal, has the most experience, which he received during the Bucs’ Super Bowl LV run.
Hainsey, the Bucs’ third-round pick last year, spent his rookie season learning the center position after playing right tackle at Notre Dame. Now he’ll be cross-trained at guard and thrown into the competition.
Leverett might be the most versatile of them all. He played left tackle and center in the preseason. Then he played left guard in the Bucs’ comeback win at Indianapolis last year, which was his first regular season action.
“I think there will be great competition between Stinnie and those guys coming in with Hainsey and Nick at left guard,” Gilbert said. “I think it’ll be great competition in camp that we’re looking forward to.”
Would this rule out the Bucs selecting an another guard in the 2022 NFL Draft this week? Certainly not, and they might even look at drafting a center and transitioning that player to guard, according to Gilbert.
“There’s a few guys in the draft based on wherever it falls,” Gilbert said. “First, second, third round, there’s some really good guards, a couple good centers that could play guard. Between those guys, obviously we’ll be in pretty good shape. Fill that one last spot and I think we’ll get up and protect Tom (Brady) and run the ball effectively.”