Bucs Have Guarded Optimism

Bucs hope third-round pick can open some holes.

By Jeff Berlinicke

If there was one thing, just one thing, that went wrong for the Tampa Buccaneers last season, fingers have to point straight at the offensive line.

The tackles and guards were terrible for the most part, and it was a crisis pointed to by many Bucs fans once the NFL draft rolled around in April. Many asked what the point was of drafting Cadillac Williams to be the No. 1 ball carrier when he didn't have anyone to carry it behind.

To be sure, the line was awful last season with Brad Johnson losing his job and most wondering if the somewhat immobile Brian Griese can keep his job while NFL defenses are learning they can feast on Buccaneer quarterbacks.

The Bucs running attack wasn't the least of their worries, but with the loss of free agent Cosey Coleman to Cleveland, the Bucs needed to fill at least on spot at the guard position. While tackles have the quarterback's back, it is still up to the guards to open the three-yard holes up the middle. Like most of the line, the look will be different this season. Gone are incumbents Coleman and Matt Dwyer, but the Bucs have some young talent that will be expected to show off during summer camp.

Dan Buenning, a third-round pick out of Wisconsin, has been impressing the coaching staff since about a minute after he was drafted. He's been in shape and has excellent discipline. He's listed behind veteran Matt Stinchcomb on the depth chart, but it won't be long until Buenning moves into the starting lineup.

Jeb Terry, a second-year player out of South Carolina has looked good during camp and impressed the Bucs with his work ethic during the off-season. It could be his job to lose, but Stinchcomb is a proven veteran. He's entering his seventh year, but could be a salary cap victim if Terry earns the job. The Bucs still have plenty of money to cut before the end of preseason.

Look for Stinchcomb and Terry to open the season with Buenning moving onto Stinchcomb's place if the line falters.

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