TAMPA, Fla. -- The weakest unit for the Buccaneers last season was, without question, the offensive line.
The Bucs allowed 52 sacks and weren’t able to run the ball with any sort of consistency. It was obvious the offensive line needed an overhaul, and that’s why the Bucs used a pair of second-round picks on offensive linemen.
They drafted tackle Donovan Smith and guard Ali Marpet, and both of them could be in the starting lineup on opening day. In fact, judging by how the Bucs lined up at last week’s workout that was open to the media, they already are halfway there.
Smith was working with the first team at left tackle. The Penn State product is almost certain to start right away because there is no real competition for him. The Bucs view Smith as an immediate upgrade over Anthony Collins, who was a free-agent bust last year. Collins was so bad that he ended up getting benched for the final four games.
Smith should be ready to play at a high level right away. He has experience in an offense similar to what coordinator Dirk Koetter runs after spending two seasons playing for Bill O’Brien in college.
The Bucs believe that solidifying the left tackle position will go a long way toward fixing the offensive line. The coaching staff and front office believe that left guard Logan Mankins, center Evan Smith and right tackle Demar Dotson are all solid starters, but their level of play was dragged down by Collins last year.
With Smith at left tackle, the belief is the rest of the offensive line should get a boost. But there is one remaining question.
That’s at right guard, where the Bucs are hoping Marpet can be the starter. That might be a little overly optimistic as Marpet is making the jump from Division III Hobart to the NFL.
The Bucs are going a bit slower with Marpet than they are with Smith. Marpet worked with the second team in last week’s open workout, while Garrett Gilkey got the first-team reps. Patrick Omameh started at right guard last year but has been moved to a backup tackle position.
But don’t rule out Marpet as the starter. He needs a strong showing in training camp. Gilkey struggled in limited playing time last year and is no lock to start. In fact, the Bucs are hoping Marpet has a good camp and preseason and makes the choice an easy one.