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Kenyatta Walker vs. Jeremy Trueblood

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will head into training camp this year with the same five offensive linemen that started all 16 regular season games in 2005.

The Bucs managed to retain all five starting offensive linemen by re-signing several players, including unrestricted free agent right tackle Kenyatta Walker and exclusive rights free agent left tackle Anthony Davis to long-term deals during the offseason.

Although the Bucs will be going to training camp with all five of those players, it should not come as a surprise to anyone if the team has one or more faces emerge as new starters.

Several of Tampa Bay’s offseason moves impacted Tampa Bay’s offensive line. The Bucs signed restricted free agent T Torrin Tucker from the Dallas Cowboys and former San Diego and Minnesota guard Toniu Fonoti. In addition to those moves, the Bucs invested first- and second-round draft picks on guard Davin Joseph (23rd overall pick) and tackle Jeremy Trueblood (59th overall pick), respectively.

Although he played left tackle at Boston College, Trueblood is competing with Kenyatta Walker for the starting right tackle position. Trueblood reported to the Bucs’ three-day mandatory mini-camp in great shape. He also performed quite well, and team sources said Trueblood was smooth in making the transition from left to right tackle. In fact, some believe Trueblood might actually be ahead of Joseph at this point in terms of learning the offense.

The 6-foot-8, 316-pound Trueblood is mammoth tackle, and the Bucs believe he can serve as a significant upgrade in the running game as early as this year. The Bucs love Trueblood’s smarts (scored a 37 out of 50 on his Wonderlic test). He also possesses a hard-working attitude. Trueblood was also able to show the athleticism at Tampa Bay’s three-day mini-camp that some of his critics claimed he lacked.

In addition to their claim that Trueblood wasn’t a great athlete, some scouts felt he would struggle at the pro level to gain proper leverage due to his size. This flaw could allow speed rushers to beat him on a consistent basis.

Walker (6-5, 302) has been Tampa Bay’s starting right tackle for the past four years, and he likely will enter training camp as the starter this year.

The former first-round pick (14th overall) has had a lot of ups and downs throughout his five-year career in which he has started 54 of the 56 regular season games he’s played in. The Bucs feel that Walker’s best season came last year when he made significant strides in run blocking and limited the amount of penalties he was called for.

Walker also showed heart and hustle by making several touchdown-saving tackles after turnovers on offense, which was something the Bucs certainly took into account when they decided to re-sign him this offseason.

The fact that Tampa Bay made a hard push to sign New England free agent T Tom Ashworth before he eventually took a more lucrative contract with Seattle suggests the Bucs aren’t completely sold on Walker as their starting right tackle, and the way his new deal is structured, the Bucs could decide to release Walker as soon as next year should Trueblood pan out.

It appears as though the Bucs have attempted to replace Walker as the starting right tackle for several seasons, and that possibility could actually come to fruition as early as this year if Trueblood can outperform Walker in training camp and preseason.

Although they’re high on Trueblood, Walker seems to have an advantage over the rookie because of his playing experience in the NFL and his familiarity with head coach Jon Gruden’s complex system.

Advantage: Kenyatta Walker

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