Source: OBP Expectations: Wide Bodies
1) Under the microscope: Luke Stocker is three years in and we’re still waiting for him to show something. I think it goes without saying that most Buc fans would rather have seen Dallas Clark return for some measure of assurance at this position, because Stocker inspires zero confidence.
2) Fresh meat: Tom Crabtree comes in from the Packers and the Bucs are hoping he can be a more prolific pass catcher than he was in his previous three seasons. Zach Miller, who has primarily been a blocking type, comes over from the Jags.
3) Weak link: This whole position is a weak link. It’s clear the Bucs want a guy capable of H-Back and TE roles and also want a guy who can both catch and block. The blocking part of that equation should be pretty solid with the group assembled, but the pass catching options lack demonstrated success. None of these guys is capable of what Dallas Clark provided last season, which is what makes the lack of effort by the front office at this position a bit frustrating.
4) Darkhorse: Danny Noble was a guy who got plenty of notice in last year’s camp. If there’s a guy on the current roster who could turn into a reliable pass catcher, he’s that guy. He doesn’t do the other things well, so even if he does distinguish himself as the best pass catcher in this group, it doesn’t make him a lock for the final roster.
5) What to expect: Stocker has the inside track on being the closest thing to an every down guy in this group. He’s a capable pass catcher and so long as he can avoid injuries, which has been a problem for him, he will serve suitably in this position. Crabtree and Nate Byham are likely bets to platoon at this position. The Bucs may be satisfied with those three, but the best thing Buc fans can hope for, barring a late add, is Noble distinguishing himself and working his way into a situation where the Bucs are very uncomfortable with the notion of cutting him.
1) Under the microscope: All five spots on this unit are completely settled. From the time Demar Dotson stepped off the basketball court at Southern Miss until he stepped on the field last season to replace Jeremy Trueblood, the rhetoric on Dotson was always the same: good athletic ability, good size, very raw. Given the chance last season, he played well. He certainly wasn’t perfect, but he got better every game and is at a point where he can ignore the specter of not making the team and focus on refining his game.
2) Fresh meat:[/b] Seven UDFAs join the ranks among the offensive line.
3) Lingering pain: As mentioned in the Front Office & Staff piece, the job Bob Bostad did last season keeping this unit together was nothing short of remarkable. The Bucs lost their two pro-bowl guards to injury during the year and still managed to patch together a somewhat suitable OL. Make no mistake, however, patching it together was exactly what they did and that patchwork as much as anything else last season was a big contributor to the late season slide.
4) Wildcard: I have always beat the drum that NFL teams must draft an offensive lineman with one of their top three to four picks every season. Even with an established core, offensive linemen take so long to develop and are so hit or miss that doing less than that is suicide. Getting OL help from the FA market is very costly and they account for five starting spots on your roster. Five starting spots that you can’t hide, you can’t scheme around and you can’t afford mediocrity. This unit is well behind the power curve in obtaining and growing a crop of backups.
The NFL selected nine offensive linemen in this year’s first round, alone. The run on linemen didn’t end there with 41 players being selected at OL positions. The Bucs brought in seven UDFAs, but the pickins were pretty slim before they could get around to signing them.
5) What to expect: The starting five is set. Look for Jamon Meredith to return as the primary backup at both OG and OT. Ted Larsen struggled on the field last season when he got to play and is really only suitable as a center, at this point. If Cody Wallace can put together a good camp and show that he can also play guard, look for him to stick, perhaps in place of Larsen. I look for the Bucs to hang onto two other guys suitable for grooming as tackles. Of the guys brought in, Jason Weaver (S.Miss) and Adam Smith (W.Ky) have the best shot at sticking.