TAMPA, Fla. – A day after his offensive line, particularly the guards, struggled in the preseason opener, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith had some words for fans ready to hit the panic button.
“'Don’t overreact,' is what I would say," Smith said. “[The media] don’t lead the charge to start overreacting. Let it play out a little bit in the preseason. Just like when you come out of the first preseason game, don’t start printing up the Super Bowl tickets or cutting everybody on the team. Just let things play out a little bit. That’s what preseason games are for. The first live action this football team has had was last night. From there, give us a little bit of time and then we’ll see what we need, if we need something else."
But Smith wasn’t defending what he saw out of the guards in Friday night’s 16-10 loss to Jacksonville.
“It comes down to a one-on-one game," Smith said. “We didn’t handle some of those situations. What you want to see in the preseason is to put guys on an island to see how we could perform one on one. We got beat a few times, especially inside at the guard position."
Guard has been an area of concern for a long time. Carl Nicks walked away from the game at the start of training camp after he was unable to recover from a toe injury. But Nicks’ status was iffy for months before his ultimate decision and the Bucs did very little to provide strong alternatives.
Right now, both starting guard spots are wide open. The Bucs have been rotating Oniel Cousins, Jamon Meredith, Patrick Omameh and Kadeem Edwards at guard. Smith repeatedly said it’s not time for the Bucs to panic.
“As I talk about [not getting] too alarmed by some of our play inside at the guard position, you can’t get too high on what happens with some of the better plays, too," Smith said. “Everybody had flashes."
But Smith wouldn’t rule out the possibility of changes at guard. There has been speculation that the Bucs could be interested in San Francisco guard Alex Boone, who currently is in a contract holdout. It also is possible the Bucs could bring in another guard or two once teams start trimming rosters.
“We’re always looking to improve the ballclub," Smith said. “If there’s someone out there that can, we’re looking at him. But, yes, we feel comfortable with the guys [in camp]."