Blocking and tackling.
Do those two things well and you will win a lot of football games – on any level. Simple, yes, but something the Bucs didn’t do particularly well in 2017, and the result was a 5-11 season.
Veteran offensive tackle Demar Dotson was having one of his best seasons in the NFL last year, until a meniscus tear landed him on injured reserve. Having Dotson back in the lineup should be with stability across the offensive line and the good news is, Dotson is on the mend.
“I’m feeling pretty good – I’m on schedule,” Dotson said. “This is more of a precaution more than anything. Just getting me back slow. I don’t have any issues about it. It’s a veteran move to take your time. You don’t have to be out here at OTAs – just get yourself as good as you can to go.
“I’m going to start running in a few more days and that will be a big progress. I think I’m on schedule. I’ve had no setbacks since my meniscus surgery. I’m feeling good about it. The coaches are feeling good about it. The trainer is feeling good about it, so I think I’m good.”
Part of the offseason focus was to get meaner and more physical on both sides of the ball. Tampa Bay brought in an influx of talent defensively, and while they didn’t add as many on the offensive line as the defensive line, they believe they will be better. Dotson likes the addition of former Raven center Ryan Jensen and the line’s makup.
“You have guys that have grown up like Ali [Marpet] and Donovan [Smith] that are coming into their own,” Dotson said. “You bring in a guy like Jensen who has an aggressive nature and will hit people. He’ll bring that nastiness and toughness to the line that we kind of went away from in years past. The one thing about this line is that we’ve got a good group. Guys want to compete. We don’t have any out-of-character guys, and that’s what is good, too. I think it’s going to be special as long as we come together as a unit and go out here and compete every day. We have the right nucleus to get things done.”
One of the main focuses on the team will be to see how the guard battles shakes out in training camp. J.R. Sweezy is set to be cleared in a couple of weeks, and the Bucs drafted Alex Cappa to compete as well. The team also likes what Caleb Beneoch brings to the table.
Dotson is also looking forward to the competition.
“They all compete,” Dotson said. “Caleb is a guy that will compete. He’s not as in-tune at guard yet because he’s just now learning it. But the one thing about him, he’ll compete. Alex Cappa is a guy that is young. Is he ready or not? That’s something that is going to be determined in the future. The one thing you are going to get out of those guys is high effort and them competing and willing to learn. You’ve got that out of both of them. Whoever is at the right guard position you’re going to get a guy that will compete his tail off, and that’s what we need.”
Dotson is the longest tenured Buccaneer on the roster, joining the team as an undrafted free agent in 2009and knows at age 32 he is considered up there by NFL standards. Still the Mississippi native says he doesn’t feel bad for an old man.
“Overall, I felt good,” Dotson said. “I think that as I’ve gotten older they took care of me during the season so I wasn’t banged up. I felt good going into the game, so that was a big thing for me. A lot of people said it was my best year. I don’t know if it was my better year or not. I think it was successful. The main thing, you get to a point in your career when you know what it takes to come out here and play and you know your body. In the 2016 season, I wasn’t as healthy as I was because I came off the injury in 2015, so I still had a little lingering stuff. So when I came into 2017 I felt good. The knee injury was gone and I was at the weight that I felt comfortable at. The coach was taking care of me, so I felt good. The whole season up until when I got hurt in Atlanta I was feeling good.”
– Scott Reynolds contributed to this report