Buccaneers not about to bench rookie offensive linemen

TAMPA, Fla. -- Ever since the draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have planned on starting rookie offensive linemen Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet.

After a dismal performance in Saturday night’s 31-7 preseason loss to Cleveland, you might believe the Bucs are re-thinking their plan. You’d be wrong.

Coach Lovie Smith expressed confidence in his two young offensive linemen Sunday, saying they won’t be benched.

“Based on how they played yesterday?’’ Smith said. “No, if I did that, quite a few of us wouldn’t have a job based on that performance. That’s just not the case. Guys are going to have bad plays. You look at the overall picture with those guys. For rookie offensive linemen we think we have two pretty good players. Are they Pro Bowl ready right now? No. But they’re making progress.’’

The progress didn’t show against Cleveland. Rookie quarterback Jameis Winston was sacked four times while playing into the third quarter and was pressured several other times.

“We had some bad plays last night along our offensive line,’’ Smith said. “It’s like that most games, you have some plays you would like to have back. [The Browns] had some good plays on their part. I’m looking at the overall picture. That play last night, for the most part, is unacceptable for us. We’ll fix it.’’

The Bucs better fix it soon because the regular season starts in two weeks and nobody is coming to the rescue of the offensive line. Smith will start at left tackle and Marpet at right guard. The only change is that recently signed Gosder Cherilus will move into the starting lineup at right tackle.

The Browns blitzed often, but Smith said that comes with the territory when you start a rookie quarterback. The issues, Smith said, were elsewhere.

“The problems I had were when we knew who to block and we did not block,’’ Smith said. “It always comes down to that. Defenses are going to have good plays at times when they may have you outnumbered. But you have a plan in place when that happens. You have built-in things that take care of that. It was our execution. Part of the execution was when you know who you’re blocking and we didn’t get it done.’’