By Jeff Berlinicke
Among the many things that went wrong for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season, the center position was one of the least discussed.
The offensive line was easily the sore spot on the offense, and it only got worse when starting center John Wade went down with a season-ending injury after the eighth game of the season. After that, it was all downhill as Sean Mahan and Matt Stinchcomb tried to take over, nether one very successfully.
It is key that Wade stay healthy this season. He was one of the few dependable players on the Bucs offensive line last season and knows the offense. He's a steady veteran, in his third year in Tampa Bay after five with the Jacksonville Jaguars. AT 6-5, 299, he's not as large as most NMFL centers, but he's quick and doesn't succumb to the penalties that have devastated the Bucs for the past two seasons.
The Bucs didn't put much stock into the position, ignoring it in the draft. Mahan was prone to penalties after taking over as starter in Week 9. No one questions his work ethic; he was just thrown into an unknown position. Mahan is a guard who had to make the transition on the fly.
Stinchcomb backed Mahan for the last half of the season and, even though he is versatile and can play any position on the line, he is clearly on the downside of his NFL career. He was part of the free agent signing frenzy the Bucs went through prior to the 2004 season when they brought in veterans to stock the offensive line and it proved to be a dismal failure.
Other than that, the closet is empty. If Wade stays healthy, the Bucs have a tenuously solid center, but with no free gents available at that position and no money to spend, the Bucs are going to have to bank on Wade or give Mahan plenty of snaps during training camp.
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