Bucs Have To Improve At Offensive Tackle

Injuries are already plaguing offensive tackle as Bucs look for alternatives.

By Jeff Berlinicke

When looking at the disaster of 2004, few humans have enough fingers to point at everything that went wrong with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The one thing that anyone who witnessed the 5-11 debacle can agree on is that the offensive tackle situation was atrocious.

To make things even more confusing, the Bucs ignored the tackle position in the draft until grabbing Chris Colmer in the fourth round. Colmer has been a big disappointment in summer camp so far, and things are so desperate already that the Bucs resigned Matt Stinchcomb who was a free agent bust last season.

None of the three quarterbacks that will make the Bucs roster this season – Brian Griese, Luke McCown, or Chris Simms – have much mobility, and Griese and Simms spent much of last season running for their lives. When they had time to throw the ball, the play was often called back for penalties.

Bucs coach Jon Gruden vowed things would be different this year, but it is hard to see how. Incumbents Kenyatta Walker and Derrick Deese are listed at the top of the depth chart, but Walker has yet to fulfill his promise as the Bucs' top pick in the 2001 draft. His play was markedly improved last season, but he still made far too many penalties and has become Public Enemy No. 1 with Bucs fans.

Walker is also missing practice with a knee injury, but should be ready for the regular season opener.

Deese, on the other hand, missed much of the 2004 training camp with a foot sprain. It's the second straight year that the 14-year veteran has missed a large part of camp and it showed early last season when he returned. Deese is the Bucs most experienced player and immediately took on a leadership role last season, but he needs to get healthy quickly.

Backup Anthony Davis looked good in spurts last season and appears ready for a larger role. With the injuries to Walker and Deese, Davis has been working with the starters all summer and has become a favorite of Bucs' coach Jon Gruden.

"Anthony Davis, if we played right now, is a starting tackle,'' Gruden said. "He's a physical presence who helps our running game a lot. I'm very pleased with Anthony Davis, but I am concerned with Derrick Deese.''

Colmer has struggled in practice and is also sidelined with a hip pointer. He was injury-plagued throughout his career at North Carolina State.

After that, the cupboard is bare. Stinchcomb brings experience, and former Buccaneer Jeff Hatch was re-signed on Friday.

Best case scenario: Deese recovers quickly and Walker learns the snap counts. If that doesn't happen, Davis will be ready t step in.

Worst case scenario: The injuries are slow to heal and the Bucs go with the unproven Colvin and Davis suffers a progress setback.


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