Changes Expected on Offensive Line

Bucs line struggled in 2004, so Jon Gruden plans chances next season

Of all the problems the Tampa Bay Buccaneers experienced in 2004, the offensive line was the worst. It may not get any better in 2005, but at least there will be some new culprits if things don't get better.

Bucs coach Jon Gruden addressed the team's offensive line woes and vowed that things would get better.

"The offensive line will always be a major point of emphasis,'' Gruden said. "That's regardless of how well or how poorly they play. They'll always be an issue in terms of our football.''

The Bucs entered the season with a completely revamped offensive line consisting of free agents and incumbent Kenyatta Walker and some young, inexperienced players. For the most part, the free agents didn't work out. Newcomer Derrick Deese suffered a knee injury and the acquisition of Todd Steussie was a bust. Incumbent center John Wade was injured early in the season and was replaced by Sean Mahan who struggled at times.

"We still have a ways to go,'' Gruden said. "The draft will be a vehicle as will free agency, and we'll continue to work with younger players like Anthony Davis and Jeb Terry.''

For the first time since Gruden was hired in 2002, the Bucs have 11 draft picks, so it's obvious that the offensive line will be top priority. The draft is loaded at the tackle and guard positions. The last time the Bucs went to the offensive line in the first round was for Walker in 2001.

Despite the negatives, Gruden was especially impressed by first-year tackle Anthony Davis.

"We see a big guy with athleticism who does have some thump,'' Gruden said. "He will be a player here. You can argue with the fact that he should have played sooner, but this season you could have made the playoffs with a 7-9 record. There was the possibility that we could have made the playoffs, so we stayed with a complement of players that gave us what we felt was the best chance to win. Anthony Davis will be a player here for the Bucs and, hopefully, a very good one.''

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