When the Bucs drafted Notre Dame OT Robert Hainsey in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft, it was clear very little would be expected in year one. Hainsey has the experience, starting three straight seasons at right tackle for Notre Dame, but his rookie season will be spent in one of the best offensive line rooms in the NFL. Still, Hainsey has picked things up extraordinarily well despite learning a new position.

After only playing right tackle with the Fighting Irish, Hainsey has been trained exclusively at center during rookie mini-camp and OTAs. The position switch isn’t about the Bucs souring on him as a tackle, but simply to allow him to focus on the intricacies of playing center.

“We’re going to train him so that he is ready to go [at center] just in case,” Arians said. “His position flexibility is amazing. He’s going to play five spots. Center is a totally different bird. You learn the whole offense when you learn center – snapping the ball, especially when you’ve got Vita [Vea] and guys like that on you. That’s a little different challenge, so we’ll train him there. We know he can play tackle, we know he can play guard.”

Hainsey’s versatility wasn’t on display throughout college, and it wasn’t until the Senior Bowl where he generated buzz as an interior offensive lineman. Hainsey played center and guard in Mobile back in January, impressing at both spots. After struggling at times in college as a short-armed (32 1/8 inches) tackle, Hainsey may have a long-term home at center. His lack of length won’t be a critical issue there, and his football IQ could really shine as a pivot.

“Smart kid, he’s all about football,” assistant head coach Harold Goodwin said. “He’s aggravating me or aggravating A.Q. Shipley after every play. He comes from a well-rounded program that taught him very well, so he comes in with a lot of knowledge of the things we’re trying to teach. He’s had some experience in some of the thing we’re trying to teach from a schematic standpoint as well. So it’s been a pleasant surprise. I like him. I like where he’s heading and hopefully he can be the player I think he can be.”

As one of the few snappers at OTAs, Hainsey has received a ton of reps over the past few weeks. The 22 year-old has performed well in practices open to the media, displaying a clear vocal presence in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage. But consistently accurate snaps will only come with repetition, which is something Hainsey will be trying to establish all year.

“He’s a five-position player – he can play right and left,” Arians said after the first week of OTAs. “But he’s got to quit snapping that thing to the quarterback’s fingertips though – too many balls were on the ground today. But yeah, he’s a great position flexibility guy.

The real test for Hainsey will come in training camp and preseason, when pads go on and we get to see him as a blocker. Right now it’s all about technical and mental reps in practice at a position he never played in college. The arrival of Bucs center Ryan Jensen should provide more tutelage next week, especially if Hainsey continues to work at center. The Bucs could also try Hainsey at guard, where Alex Cappa will be a free agent this offseason.

Hainsey may need an injury or two to see the field in 2021, but he’s in the Bucs future plans. With Jensen and Cappa set to test the market in the spring, Tampa Bay needs to develop interior OL options. Hainsey already has the play demeanor, toughness, and smarts of a Bucs offensive lineman, and this season will be about mastering the technique and details of new positions. A few weeks in, Hainsey seems up for the challenge.

“I don’t think there is a position he can’t play,” Arians said. “Whatever happens – barring injuries – he should be fine at a bunch of spots.”

Share On Socials

About the Author: Jon Ledyard

Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Alldaway 2.0
10 days ago

Hainsey is looking like a great bargain along with Darden.

10 days ago

Love the competition. Go Bucs!

10 days ago

He’s going to be a valuable asset if he can nail down the center role too. Hopefully he won’t make it on the field this season unless he’s just giving the vets a break, or we’re pulling starters in blowout victories..

10 days ago

The Bucs will be set up real well next offseason if Jensen and Cappa can’t be retained easily, with Hainsey and Stinnie stepping into those roles. Save them 15-18 million on the cap potentially. Easier said than done, with the win window still open, taking a chance on 2 inexperienced guys on the O line but could be the difference for retaining Godwin.

10 days ago

Bucs have over $30 million invested in the center and left side of the line so you figure somethings get to give sooner than later. The right side is getting paid peanuts compared to the left since both players are on rookie deals.

Reply to  drdneast
10 days ago

I can see Stinnie and this rookie replacing Cappa is he becomes too expensive. I think the ship will sail on AB and unfortunately Godwin. Tyler Johnson and Darden will be there to step up. I think Carlton Davis gets broke off in the process for a top 5 corner deal with the Bucs and Vea about to get paid as top DT in the league. Can’t keep them all, the depth says a lot about future plans

9 days ago

I’ve said several times already but this guy in 3rd and Darden in the 4th are both most exciting picks to me from this draft.

Last edited 9 days ago by fredster
9 days ago

Any word on the play of Sadarius Hutcherson?

9 days ago

I would love for Jensen and Cappa to stay, but having Hansey and Stinnie waiting there to replace them if they go chase the money, it could be two less things to worry about.

6 days ago

I like the approach Licht seems to have taken to this point with next year’s free agent class – waiting and seeing. SR has mentioned that we may seek to extend Jensen before this season starts, but I hope that’s not the case. Committing guaranteed money to guys who are still under contract is bad business for a team in our position. We are going to be struggling with the cap again next offseason. Waiting to see what happens can only really help us acquire more information and make more informed decisions. Maybe Hainsey convinces this staff that he’s a… Read more »