TAMPA, FL (WFLA) – After a tepid performance against Minnesota, Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith made a statement to his offensive line. Get physical, or get off the field.
“Once coach Smith makes a statement, our number was called, explained rookie tackle Donovan Smith. “We pretty much had to step it up and we went out there and started from play one.”
“I think we started off strong,” recollected fellow-rookie lineman Ali Marpet. “You need that mentality to fire off the ball right away, and that strong start sort of gave us that momentum that carried over.”
Led by Smith and Marpet, the Buccaneers offensive line was much-improved Monday night. Doug Martin ran wild, and Jameis Winston looked like a different quarterback than he was in Minneapolis.
“I’m from Penn State,” chuckled Smith. “We don’t have a lot of fireworks and cannons. So it was pretty cool to hear all that. It was great, and to be able to open it up with a win was great. To be able to build on that is the plan.”
Marpet and Smith will likely be starters when the regular season begins. Fortunately for the Bucs, there is still time for them to get adjusted to life in the NFL.
“Every week, every day, you keep closing the gap and finally you just wake up one day and say: ‘Wow, I get it,'” explained newly-signed tackle Gosder Cherilus. “We can tell them everything, but at the end of the day, your mind is moving faster than your feet. Your feet are moving faster than your mind. He just has to bring it down to his level.”
“They’re all good players,” said veteran guard Logan Mankins when asked about the rookie tandem. “They just have to get caught up to speed, which they are. None of us are ready for game one yet, so we’re all working towards that, and they’re working towards that too.”
The offensive line’s improvement is even more impressing considering the absence of injured right tackle Demar Dotson. His replacement, Cherilus, is still getting up to speed.
“There’s nothing you can do that’s going to get you ready for opening day,” he detailed. “You have to go through this. You have to battle and get in shape. You could bring Usain Bolt out here, he’d still be somewhat winded. It’s a different type of shape, you have to go through it.”
Will there be mistakes? Of course. Will there be a few head scratching moments? Probably. But will the Bucs be better up front than they were in 2014? There’s every reason to believe the answer is yes.
“Last year the offensive line knew they under-performed,” stated Marpet. “I think this year, it’s about improving from last year and just getting a whole lot better and since there are those young guys, we are going to get better.”
Mankins seems to agree. “It seems like we’re actually building a trust between the guys on the field right now, and that’s a good thing,” he added.