TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith was trying hard not to say too much Sunday about his plans for the offensive line. But the look on his face provided some clues.
“Last week, I think I had a frown on my face as I was talking,’’ Smith said. “I’m not frowning right now.’’
That’s because Smith was much happier with what he saw out of his offensive line in Saturday’s preseason game with Miami than he was the previous week against Jacksonville. The play of the offensive line, particularly the guards, was horrible against the Jaguars.
Guard has been a position of concern all along. Former All-Pro Carl Nicks left the team at the start of training camp after he was unable to recover from a toe injury. The Bucs have experimented with a combination of guards throughout training camp and the preseason.
“I thought the group held their own,’’ Smith said. “We saw improvement. But, as I’ve said all along, our plan was to let everybody have an opportunity one way or another. When you get to the third preseason game, you’re getting ready for the season and the group we put out there right now, they’ve earned that right to get the majority of the plays this week. It will all be fairly clear on what we’re thinking.’’
“For Oneil to be in there two weeks, that’s kind of telling you we think we know what he is for the most part,’’ Smith said. “He played solid ball.’’
Smith said Omameh also graded out well but wouldn’t say if he would get the start in the third preseason game at Buffalo. But teams generally like to have their starters set by the third preseason game.
“I think [Omameh] held up,’’ Smith said. “When I say he played well, I’m talking about all the things we ask him to do. Inside, you’ve got to be able to one-on-one block versus run, versus the pass. Our quarterbacks for the most part the protection gave them time to hit the receivers. Patrick was a part of that. Last week, the guards were at the top of our minds because of that constant quick pressure inside. He didn’t really allow that and that’s his first time out. If he’s in there this week, we’ll see how he does.’’