Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2003 Position Analysis: Offensive Line

The Bucs didn't wait for the draft to begin addressing their offensive front, but an infusion of young blocking talent could still help the team down the road

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Trades have left the Bucs without a second-round pick the last two years, but the last time they made a selection in that round it was on Tennessee G Cosey Coleman

In the weeks prior to the 2003 NFL Draft, Buccaneers.com will analyze each position on the team in regards to the draft, looking at depth, selection history and available players. Much of the focus will be on the Bucs' second and third-round history, as the team does not currently own a first-round pick. As usual, this look at the draft is not intended to reflect the intentions or strategies of the Buccaneers' personnel decision-makers. Today we focus on the offensive line, where Tampa Bay's draft history has not always been kind.

Despite allowing just one sack during the team's three-game postseason run to the league title in January, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive line was a subject of intense scrutiny by the time free agency rolled around in March. The release of center Jeff Christy made it a confirmed fact: the Bucs will open 2003 with a different front line than the year before.

Stop us if you've heard this one before.

Since early 2000, the Buccaneers have poured significant resources into remaking their offensive line, often with good results. In 2000, former Vikings Christy and G Randall McDaniel were signed and slotted into the starting lineup. Both players made it to the Pro Bowl that season after the Bucs finished ninth in the NFL in rushing. In 2001, Tampa Bay traded up in the first round to get Florida T Kenyatta Walker, and he has started 29 games in two years, proving capable at both right and left tackle. In 2002, under new Head Coach Jon Gruden, the Bucs picked up G Kerry Jenkins to replace McDaniel and signed Roman Oben to start at left tackle. A Super Bowl followed. Already this offseason, the team has added two more potential starters, C John Wade and G Jason Whittle in an attempt to build on the offensive's late-season momentum.

Since 1995, the Buccaneers have been one of the league's most consistently excellent performers in the draft, scoring again and again by adding players who make the team, build depth and eventually fill starting roles. On the offensive line, however, Bucs have seemingly hit more singles than home runs. While Jason Odom, Pete Pierson, Jerry Wunsch, Frank Middleton and Todd Washington, to name a few, were solid contributors, none proved to be cornerstone players in Tampa.

In fact, since 1991, the only offensive lineman drafted by the Bucs who has started the equivalent of three seasons (48 games) is Middleton, who opened 50 contests in Tampa before leaving for Oakland. Obviously, Walker and Coleman could change that in the coming years.

**Offensive Linemen Drafted in the Last Five Years**
**Year****Round****Player****School****Still on Team?**
20027thC Zack QuacciaStanfordNo
20011stT Kenyatta WalkerFloridaYes
20015thG Russ HochsteinNebraskaNo
20002ndG Cosey ColemanTennesseeYes
19997thG Robert HuntVirginiaNo
19984thC Todd WashingtonVirginia TechNo

Will the Bucs try their hand at the offensive line again in 2003? Like its counterpart on defense, offensive line is a position that always seems to need a depth charge. By sheer numbers, the Bucs are well below the 15 linemen they took to training camp last year, and that includes two men, C Jason Scukanec and T Kyle Kipps, who are currently playing in the NFL Europe League.

In addition, the Bucs have not had a huge infusion of young players at that position in recent years. Only four Tampa Bay picks have been spent on offensive linemen in the last five years: Coleman, Walker and a pair of seventh-rounders who failed to make the team, Robert Hunt (1999) and Zack Quaccia (2002). Other than Coleman and Walker, the only first-day pick the Bucs have turned into an offensive lineman in the last 11 years was the second-rounder they spent on Wunsch in 1997.

On the other hand, the additions of Whittle and Wade give the Bucs some real depth up front. The team has three players in Whittle, Jenkins and Coleman who started at guard all of last year, and both Wade and Whittle are viable candidates for Christy's vacated center spot. The re-signing of Oben just two weeks ago means the team can keep its tackle position intact, and backup Cornell Green started three games at right tackle last season. Green can also play guard.

In the spring of 2001, the Buccaneers felt pressure to add an offensive tackle who could start right away, having patchworked the spot in 2000 with Pierson and George Hegamin, following the retirement of longtime stalwart Paul Gruber. The Bucs do not appear to have a similarly pressing need in 2003, but it might be time to look to the future.

Offensive Line Position Numbers:

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