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Over the next month until the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take the field for training camp, AllBucs plans to break down the team’s roster, position by position, in order to prepare onlookers for what to watch for during the 2021 season.
This series isn’t meant to turn into a projection of the depth chart, although starters at some positions will appear rather obvious. Instead, this exercise should provide insight as to which players should make meaningful contributions to a run at another Super Bowl and what the Bucs’ depth looks like.
After breaking down the quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end positions previously, today we’ll take a look at the Buccaneers’ offensive line.
Buccaneers current offensive linemen
Robert Hainsey (rookie)
Sadarius Hutcherson (rookie)
Calvin Ashley (rookie)
Starters: Ryan Jensen, Ali Marpet, Donovan Smith, Alex Cappa, and Tristan Wirfs
Appearing mostly at center, Jensen has started in and played all 16 games each of his three seasons in Tampa Bay. Prior to joining the Bucs, Jensen spent spend four years (2013-17) with the Baltimore Ravens.
He is one of the better centers in the league and continued to be a critical part of the team’s effort to protect quarterback Tom Brady this past season. Speaking of Brady, the two built a strong level of trust playing together for the first time. Something to note about Jensen is that he’ll be a free agent after this upcoming season.
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Starting at left tackle is Smith, who agreed to a two-year extension worth $31.8 million, which helped create room to re-sign defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Smith missed a handful of games in 2020 but stepped up in one of the toughest matchups all year, eliminating Chase Young from being a problem in the Wild Card Round.
RELATED: Analysis: Buccaneers LT Donovan Smith Stepped Up When Needed Most
Between Jensen and Smith on the line is left guard Ali Marpet. Marpet allowed zero sacks and just 10 pressures all season and also finished with a dominant run-blocking grade according to Pro Football Focus.
On the right side of Jensen at guard is Cappa who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Cappa started every game of the regular season last year but injured his ankle in the Wild Card Round and missed the rest of Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl run. Cappa returned to practice during mandatory minicamp, which is an encouraging sign for the Bucs.
RELATED: Cappa Returns to Practice Following Ankle Injury
Finally, there is Wirfs at right tackle who was one of Tampa Bay’s best offensive linemen during his rookie season. Wirfs allowed only 24 quarterback pressures according to PFF, second-fewest among the Buccaneers’ starting offensive line.
There’s a strong chance he could potentially earn All-Pro honors next season as he continues to improve. Wirfs ranked 24th among offensive tackles with 300+ pass-blocking snaps in pressures allowed during the 2020 regular season, which is a ranking that could improve greatly in 2021 by cutting down on just a couple of pressures.
RELATED: Can Buccaneers OT Tristan Wirfs Become an All-Pro in 2021?
Depth: Aaron Stinnie, Robert Hainsey, Josh Wells, Brad Seaton, Donell Stanley, Sadarius Hutcherson, John Molchon, Nick Leverett, and Calvin Ashley
Following Cappa’s ankle injury early in the playoffs, Stinnie stepped up in a huge way proving to be a solid depth option on the line, who has the ability to start when needed. In March, Stinnie re-signed with the Bucs agreeing to a one-year deal. In the four postseason games with Stinnie filling in for Cappa, Tampa Bay only allowed three sacks over those three contests combined and allowed just six pressures per game in that span.
The Bucs added depth to the offensive line drafting Hainsey in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The Notre Dame product has the potential to play just about every spot on the offensive line, according to head coach Bruce Arians. While Arians is confident in the rookie’s abilities, Hainsey spent most of his time in South Bend at right tackle.
RELATED: Arians Envisions Robert Hainsey Playing Every Spot on Buccaneers OL
Wells signed a one-year contract at the end of March to remain in Tampa Bay after playing in 19 of the 20 games last year, including all four playoff matchups. While he did start once at left tackle, Wells served as the primary backup swing tackle in 2020.
The rest of the depth chart has some work to do to earn a spot on the Bucs’ active roster. Both Leverett and Molchon spent last year on the practice squad. Molchon actually began last season on injured reserve due to a training camp knee injury before returning in Week 13 to the practice squad.
As for Seaton, the Villanova product opted out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and now has one year left on his contract.
Stanley signed with the Bucs in February after not playing anywhere last season. The second-year player went to training camp with the Miami Dolphins in 2020 after signing as an undrafted free agent but was later released.
Hainsey isn’t the only rookie offensive lineman. The Bucs signed both Hutcherson and Ashley as undrafted free agents following April’s draft. Hutcherson played left guard for South Carolina last season but has experience across the line. Ashley finished his college career at Florida A&M after previously spending time at Auburn and FAU.
Returning every starter on the offensive line is massive for the Bucs, especially considering Smith’s new contract allowed the team to create space to re-sign Suh on defense. It will be interesting to see how much Wirfs can improve in his second year considering the rookie season he had. Then there’s Cappa who also could improve even more as he hopes to sign a large contract next offseason.
While the starters are in a good spot, the Bucs do have some questions beyond that first group. The team lost A.Q. Shipley due to a neck injury that forced him to medically retire. Both Joe Haeg, who signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Ted Larsen are no longer with the team either. Luckily for the Bucs, Aaron Stinnie was able to show in the postseason that he is a solid option at right guard. To help provide depth at a number of spots along the offensive line is rookie Robert Hainsey.