Beyond the starters: Offensive line

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From left to right, the line reads as follows: Cole Boozer, Zack Bailey, Josh LeRibeus, Earl Watford and Caleb Benenoch. These are not the starters, but the second-string offensive line listed from left tackle to right tackle. You wouldn’t be alone if you were to say that the only name you recognized on this list was Benenoch. Many people are familiar with Benenoch because of his 2017 season as the Buccaneers’ right tackle. He had a fairly decent showing in his five starts. Whether you have confidence in him or not, he isn’t enough to protect the quarterback should injuries haunt the O-line.

The Injury Plague

The drop-off in overall quality, per position, is very significant between the Buccaneers’ first- and second-string offensive linemen. Let’s take a look at the facts. Now we all know the game of football is a physical game; there is no getting around that. The phrase “next man up” is used throughout the NFL. Injuries are going to happen whether you want it to or not. The Buccaneers haven’t been able to go an entire season without suffering injuries on their offensive line. It may not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but football is a game of inches. In a division with defensive standouts such as Gerald McCoy, Cameron Meredith, and Vic Beasley, the Buccaneers need all the protection they can get. Let’s take a look at the total sacks per team in the NFC South last year. The Carolina Panthers had the least, landing at 35. The Atlanta Falcons were just above them totaling up to 37, and the division-winning New Orleans Saints lead the pack with 49. Safe to say, the Buccaneers desperately need some depth on the line, and they need it fast.

The Big Picture

When push comes to shove, the offensive line is not the easiest position group to address. The job is debatably the most physically demanding and takes a toll every snap of the game. The Buccaneers are currently approaching the end of the preseason and soon will have to cut the team down to 53 men. With an offensive line that has given up seven sacks in the first two preseason games alone, we can expect to see some cuts on the offensive line, as well as some signings shortly. All worries aside, the Buccaneers could face a very tough season this year should one of the starters on the offensive line get injured.

Photo credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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