TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers don’t have a clear-cut starter at either guard position. But coach Lovie Smith doesn’t sound worried about that as his team gets ready for its first preseason game Friday at Jacksonville.
“Players have told us who gets the first opportunity,’’ Smith said. “Who deserves reps? That’s what you try to get leading up to the preseason games.’’
The Bucs lost former All-Pro Carl Nicks when he decided to leave the team just before camp due to a toe injury that hadn’t healed. The Bucs still could bring in a guard or two from outside. But Smith sounds like he’s prepared to go with what he has.
“We like the prospects,’’ Smith said. “We don’t have a lot of players around the position that have started a lot of games. We have young talent on the line. You go against [All-Pro defensive tackle] Gerald McCoy every day, you get better. We’re getting better.’’
Besides the guard positions, there have been other major changes on the offensive line. Guard Davin Joseph and left tackle Donald Penn are gone. The Bucs signed free-agent center Evan Dietrich-Smith and left tackle Anthony Collins.
That’s a lot of change for an offensive line, but Smith isn’t worried about a lack of chemistry.
“I don’t think you have to play together five years to get that chemistry,’’ Smith said. “We’ve had a lot of practices together, a lot of time together in the meeting rooms. Green Bay is a distant memory for Evan. Cincinnati is a distant memory for Anthony. They’re coming along.’’
Smith isn’t the only one with confidence in the offensive line. Collins said Tampa Bay could turn out to have one of the league’s best offensive lines.
“We’ll become famous to the city,’’ Collins said. “We’ll become famous to our own teammates. We’ll become famous to the staff that works here. It’s on the O-line, period.’’