The unit that performed the worst for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014 was the offensive line. As a team, the Buccaneers gave up the third most sacks in the NFL (52) and was the 29th-ranked unit in rushing yards, only gaining an average of just 85.9 yards per game.
There was plenty of blame to go around – the lack of an offensive coordinator, a poor offensive scheme, under-performing talent, poor execution and perhaps coaching from the assistants – but regardless, heading into the 2015 season, Tampa Bay’s offensive line needs to be addressed and perhaps overhauled. This despite the unit being revamped last offseason with the addition of high-profiling signings in left tackle Anthony Collins and center Evan Dietrich-Smith, the trade for left guard Logan Mankins, the drafting of tackle Kevin Pamphile and guard Kadeem Edwards and some lesser signings in linemen Oniel Cousins and Garrett Gilkey among others.
PewterReport.com takes a look at the 2014 performance of the offensive line and looks ahead to 2015 in this feature.
WILL RETURN TO TAMPA BAY IN 2015 C Evan Dietrich-Smith Dietrich-Smith was also part of the influx of new players brought in to revamp Tampa Bay’s offensive line. Signed as a free agent from the Packers, Dietrich-Smith took over for Jeremy Zuttah who was traded to the Ravens for a draft pick. Dietrich-Smith wasn’t bad, but probably not the upgrade the Bucs front office expected. Dietrich-Smith, proved to be durable if nothing else, missing just one game last season due to pneumonia.
2015 Outlook: Signed for the next three years, Dietrich–Smith will be the Bucs starting center in 2015 barring injury. With better guard play around him, and another year playing beside Mankins, Dietrich-Smith should be a better player for Tampa Bay in 2015.
G Logan Mankins Mankins, like most of the offensive line, didn’t have his best season in 2014. Injuring his knee in Week 1 against the Panthers, Mankins wasn’t 100 percent healthy for much of the season, but was a warrior who graded out well in most games internally by the staff. Mankins also was not acclimated to the Tampa heat by missing training camp, after not being here until a week before the regular season kicked off. At age 32, Mankins’ best days are most likely behind him, but he is still serviceable and is a leader inside the offensive line room. Some questioned his desire to be in Tampa Bay, and while it was tough for him watching the Patriots win a Super Bowl, sources told PewterReport.com that Mankins always put forth 100 percent effort in practice and games was the consummate professional.
2015 Outlook: With another year in Tampa Bay and an offseason to get settled, Mankins should resemble his previous Patriots self in 2015. While his $6 million salary may not be a great value, Tampa Bay knows they can count on Mankins to gut it out week in and week out, while also being a great influence on what the rookie offensive linemen that are expected to be drafted later this year.
OT Demar Dotson The former basketball-player-turned-tackle was Tampa Bay’s most consistent linemen in 2014. But being the best on a squad that surrendered 52 sacks isn’t a lot to write home about. Dotson struggled with penalties, leading the team in infractions in 2014, something he must improve upon if he expects to become a serviceable left tackle in 2015. At 6-foot-9, Dotson struggles with shorter, quicker defensive linemen and doesn’t have a great low base. But if he gets set early and gets his hands on a defender, Dotson does a good job of countering moves of pass rushers.
2015 Outlook: Tampa Bay shifted Dotson to the left side for the final three games in 2014 and the Mississippi native was a steady performer in limited work. Dotson most likely heads into 2015 first on the depth chart at the left tackle spot, and it will be crucial for him to continue to develop, especially if the Bucs draft a QB with their first overall pick in the draft as most expect.
G Kadeem Edwards The Bucs drafted Edwards in the fifth round of last year’s draft, knowing the small school guard would need some polishing before being able to be counted on to contribute. Unfortunately, Edwards’ on-the-job training was cut short mid-season with a foot injury that landed him on injured reserve. Edwards’ contributions in 2014 were minimal and limited to practice, but that could change this upcoming year.
2015 Outlook: Edwards will go into training camp with his eyes set on being in the mix for a starting guard spot. While the Bucs most likely will add talent through free agency or the draft at the guard position, the organization still has high hopes for Edwards. Physically, Edwards has the tools, but needs to grasp the mental part of the game faster and prove to the staff that the NFL game isn’t too big for him.
G Patrick Omameh The Bucs settled on Omameh in the first month of the season to be the team’s starting guard after Gilkey and Cousins struggled early in the year. The former Michigan standout struggled as well, but was the best option as the season went on. While Omameh has a good shot to stick in the NFL as a depth player, the Bucs or other teams will need to see considerable improvement in his game before he lines up as a starter in the future.
2015 Outlook: Omameh is a hard worker but blew too many basic assignments in 2014 and was part of debacle on the line that saw Bucs QBs harassed, sacked and hit on way too many occasions. Another training camp and another year of working on his technique should benefit Omameh, who will be in the mix as a backup in 2015.
OT Kevin Pamphile Like Edwards, Pamphile was a 2014 draft pick who came to the Bucs needing work to be effective at the NFL level. Pamphile started slow but by the bye week was starting to understand the NFL game and before the season ended, was able to see some valuable and meaningful snaps. Pamphile saw time at left tackle, right tackle and also at tight end in run blocking situations.
2015 Outlook: Pamphile heads into the OTAs and minicamp with a chance to work his way up the depth chart at right tackle. With Dotson set to take over for Collins at left tackle, there will be a void that the Bucs hope Pamphile can fill in 2015.
G-C Josh Allen
Allen, like Pamphile, started seeing action late in the season as the staff began evaluating players for 2015. Allen took some reps from Omameh as the season progressed, and like most young players, struggled, but occasionally showing some flashes that gave the organization hopes of future development.
2015 Outlook: Raw but talented, Allen will have an opportunity to be in the mix for depth, but counting on him in 2015 for more than that would be stretch.
C Jeremiah Warren and OT Matt Patchan Both Warren and Patchan were signed to futures contracts and will have an opportunity to prove themselves in the offseason OTAs and minicamps to earn the right to be on the 90-man roster when training camp kicks off next July.
LIKELY WON’T RETURN TO TAMPA BAY IN 2015 OT Anthony Collins Collins was one of the most disappointing free agents signed by Tampa Bay last March after replacing Donald Penn at left tackle. Collins’ play wasn’t terrible all season, but he suffered from a lack of consistency. However, his most egregious error was getting in Lovie Smith’s doghouse, and being benched the last four games of 2014. Sources told PewterReport.com that Collins “failed to take advantage of team resources to rehab his injuries,” which could earn him a one-way ticket out of Tampa Bay.
2015 Outlook: Most likely Collins will be released, and the Bucs will look to plug Dotson in at left tackle while also addressing the position via free agency again or the draft – or possibly both.
G Oniel Cousins General manager Jason Licht took somewhat of a beating when he signed Cousins as a free agent last spring, but fans forget it was only a veteran-minimum deal, and was also at the urging of line coach George Warhop, who coached him with the Cleveland Browns. Cousins was not signed with the intentions of being a starter. Unfortunately injuries, and a lack of development from other players forced Tampa Bay to insert Cousins into the lineup at times where he struggled for the most part, aside from his start at left tackle for Collins in Cleveland.
2015 Outlook: With Warhop still on the staff, Cousins, who is an unrestricted free agent, could be back in Tampa Bay with another one-year deal. However the front office knows he isn’t a long-term solution and will need to earn a roster spot next summer during training camp.
G Garrett Gilkey
Gilkey joined the Bucs six days before the regular season after being released by the Cleveland Browns and was behind right out of the gate. Unfortunately, it showed when he was pressed into action during the season. He had four penalties in his first start at center against Cincinnati, in addition to two botched snaps. Gilkey never showed much promise, struggling at guard and also at center in game action with technique issues, equally underwhelming in run blocking and pass protection.
2015 Outlook: Gilkey, who was coached by Warhop in Cleveland, may return as a camp body, but the Bucs know they need better talent across the line and perhaps saw enough of Gilkey to move on.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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