The Bucs’ short-lived stint of being at full strength along the offensive line may come to an end Sunday.
Offensive lineman Demar Dotson landed on the injury report Wednesday because of a concussion suffered last weekend in San Diego and was a no-show again at practice on Thursday. News of the injury came as a surprise since Dotson played 100 percent of the snaps at right tackle against the Chargers and nothing was mention following the game.
In his eighth NFL season, all spent with the Bucs, Dotson is the team’s longest-tenured player. Tampa Bay signed him to a three-year extension worth $16.5 million in August.
Bucs RT Gosder Cherilus – Photo by Cliff Welch/PR
Dotson, 31, has started all 12 games this season and played all but five snaps. Left tackle Donovan Smith and right guard Ali Marpet have started every game and played every snap. Center Joe Hawley missed the Week 10 win over the Chicago Bears and left guard Kevin Pamphile sat out that game and the following victory at Kansas City with a concussion.
The offensive line has been one of the healthiest units on the team this year. The starting lineup of Smith, Pamphile, Hawley, Marpet and Dotson was together for the season’s first eight games and the past two. That continuity may fracture again this Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.
Dotson’s going through the league’s mandatory concussion protocol and if he isn’t cleared to play by Sunday, the Bucs will likely turn to backup Gosder Cherilus to take over. The ninth-year veteran has appeared in every game other than the season opener in Atlanta and is often declared as an eligible receiver in the jumbo sets.
“Extreme confidence in [Gosder], extreme,” Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said Thursday. “One of the best vets on our team, played a lot of ball for us, true pro. He’s always prepared, whatever his role is. If it works out that Dot can’t go, Goz will step in there and he’ll do a great job.”
If Cherilus is the starter this weekend, the Bucs could go with rookie Caleb Benenoch to come in and fill the swing role.
“We use jumbo more some games than others,” Koetter said. “Goz has done fine in that role. Kevin Pamphile was more in that role last year, but Goz has always been ready to go. When we’ve used it more he’s done fine in that role, but he’s an offensive tackle. That’s his position.”
Dotson isn’t the only blocker Tampa Bay may have to play without against the Saints. Tight end Luke Stocker exited last week’s game in San Diego on the Bucs’ first play from scrimmage and wasn’t at practice Wednesday and Thursday.