In the coming days, Bucs Central will address the different areas of the Buccaneers offense, defense and special teams by taking a look back on the 2009 campaign and looking forward to the 2010 offseason and beyond. From potential cap casualties, re-signings, free agent signings to draft picks, that could have quite a huge impact on the upcoming season and seasons outside of just 2010. Areas that have already been addressed are quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends.
What was once considered, a strength of the Buccaneers has know just as many questions surrounding it as the rest of the teams positions. Whether you blame coaching, injuries, scheme or a lack of talent the team needs to a take a long hard look at the production of a unit that has had the most resources poured into over the last four years and is still playing at mediocre level, from starters to depth the line is in worse shape then many want to believe.
Jeff Faine — D
Faine who entered 2009 with an out clause in his contract after the season, was injured in the season opener and lost for several weeks. The elder statesmen of a relatively young line, Faine has been decent in pass coverage, but lacks strength at the point. The bigger question is whether Faine was able to trigger the voidable years and become an unrestricted free agent.
Jeremy Zuttah — D
Zuttah was supposed to wage a fierce battle with incumbent Aaron Sears in training camp, but was handed the job by default do to unforeseen mental health issues that saw Sears leave the team. Zuttah showed progress as the season wore on and a toughness battling through injures in the seasons final game.
Davin Joseph — C
Joseph a Probowl alternate in 2008 failed to ascend and has not lived up to the hype bestowed upon him many pundits. Many will argue Joseph is the team’s best offensive lineman on the Bucs, but how good does one really have to be considering, as a whole the unit is average.
Donald Penn — C
Penn feuded with management over a long term contract extension and proceeded to gain excessive weight as a show of displeasure with the lack of talks. Penn who views his self worth is more substantial then it is, had an inconsistent campaign in 2009 that has left a sour taste in the mouths of general manager Mark Dominik and head coach Raheem Morris. .
Jeremy Trueblood — D
Trueblood has effortlessly taken the human turnstile moniker away from former Bucs right tackle, Kenyatta Walker. After a coaching change many within the halls of One Buc Place had higher hopes for Trueblood who entered his fourth year with the team failed to deliver, even after entering training camp in the best shape of his young football career.
Aaron Sears — Inc
Sears was a polarizing figure in 2009. After leaving the team for undisclosed reasons, it’s not known whether he will ever be a contributor in pewter and red again. While he’s been working out on his own at One Buc Place since the season has ended. The bigger problem is Sears mental health status, since no one knows for sure depth could again be an issue moving forward.
Shawn Murphy — Inc
Signed away from the Dolphins, Murphy was inactive for most games. The son of former Braves outfielder Dale Murphy the younger Murphy has limited talent but could prove to be an option as depth and give the team a boost for a game or two.
Jonathan Compas — Inc
Compas was signed after the Raiders released him on final cut down day. He’s best suited for a zone blocking scheme, with no one else on the roster with any significant playing experience at center and Compas being in the system for a year the team might still view him as a viable backup option.
James Lee — Inc
Lee has toiled around on the teams practice squad for the past two seasons and might be running out of time to show his wares. With the team having major concerns at both starting tackle spots and depth issues Lee might not even make it to camp.
Demar Dotson — Inc
Dotson made the 53 man roster out of training camp. A raw prospect who only has one season of collegiate experience made quite an impression on the coaching staff. With both Penn and Trueblood’s status with the team in question, due to play and contract status how much of a future does Dotson really have? He’s more of a long term developmental project at best.
Xaiver Fulton — Inc
Fulton was placed on I.R. before the season started blessed with natural athletic ability he struggled during training camp and during the pre-season with a preexisting injury. But as mentioned above with Dotson the team has doubts if Fulton is a legitimate answer to a nagging question.
Inconsistent play, new offensive line coach and a flip flopping of blocking scheme mid-season contributed mightily to a lackluster performance by the entire line. A group that has been together for two years still hasn’t gelled as a cohesive unit. The team has spent countless resources on trying to build a solid unit, but the pieces have failed to materialize and changes could be on the horizon as early as the 2010 season.
The team needs upgrades to both starting tackles and needs to build depth along the interior. What was once considered an up and coming offensive line is still wallowing in mediocrity. Finding capable players that can contribute immediately is one of the team’s upmost priorities.
Best Case Scenario
The Bucs could opt for arguably the best tackle in the draft with the third overall pick in Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung or gamble that a player slips in the draft such as Maryland’s Bruce Campbell or Iowa’s Brian Bugala to the top of the second round to add a player. Seeing how free agency will be thinned do to players not having the needed six years of service to become unrestricted free agents the teams best option to acquire players is through the draft and via trades