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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Training Camp Goals: 2023 Buccaneers, Numbers 70-79

As we continue to ponder the possible camp objectives for every player on Tampa Bay's current 90-man roster, we spend some time running down a list of O-linemen, including one entrenched starter who wants to be more of a leader


Tristan Wirfs wore jersey number 74 during his stellar three-year collegiate career at Iowa. As a first-round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020, Wirfs had some leeway in picking what number he would wear in the NFL, but number 74 was not available. That one was already being worn by one of the Buccaneers' best offensive players, guard Ali Marpet.

Wirfs eventually went with #78, perhaps skipping past college and paying tribute to his high school playing days. A quick Google search suggests he wore that and #79 for the Mount Vernon Mustangs. At the time of his selection, Wirfs also could have chosen 70, 71, 72 or 75. There were a few openings on the Bucs' 2022 offseason roster in the high 60s, as well.

But he chose 78 and, in just three short years, may have claimed "ownership" of that number as the best player in franchise history ever to put it on. He is far and away the most accomplished offensive lineman to wear #78 for Tampa Bay but he does get some competition from the defensive side. Most notably, defensive end John Cannon played 122 games for the franchise and recorded 22.0 career sacks. Defensive end/defensive tackle Marcus Jones had a pretty good run in #78 for the Bucs, too, most notably when he racked up 13.0 sacks in 2000.

Still, Wirfs probably already has them beat and has plenty of years to pad his resume. He's already the only offensive lineman in franchise history to win first-team Associated Press All-Pro honors. That recognition came in just his second season, and he added second-team AP honors last year, too. As a rookie, Wirfs was a key figure in the Bucs' run to the Super Bowl LV championship, incredibly allowing only one sack all season.

Every single number in the 70s is taken as the Buccaneers head into their 2023 training camp next week. Nine of the 10 spots are filled by offensive linemen, though none of the others are as decorated, as of yet, as Wirfs. Still, there are several players in that group who will be battling for starting spots and a number of young blockers trying to get a first foothold in the NFL.

#70 OL Robert Hainsey: Like Luke Goedeke and Cody Mauch, who we covered in yesterday's run through the players in the 60-69 jerseys, Hainsey played tackle in college but was viewed primarily as an interior lineman by the Bucs on draft night. In Hainsey's case, he started working very early at the center position as a rookie in 2021, and that proved fortuitous when Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen went down with a serious knee injury during the second practice of training camp last summer. Hainsey, who had no starts and only 31 offensive snaps as a rookie, stepped in and started all 17 regular season games before Jensen stunningly returned to the lineup for the playoffs. The Bucs are hopeful that Jensen will be fully ready to reclaim his job at the pivot this season, and the initial plan for the starting guard spots appears to be the rookie Mauch and veteran free agent acquisition Matt Feiler. Still, Hainsey will undoubtedly be battling to get back into the starting five, and his experience from last season can only help in that competition. Hainsey is yet another lineman that increases his perceived value in the eyes of the Bucs' coaching staff by showing the flexibility to play multiple positions. He will surely come into his third NFL camp attempting to show that he can indeed hold his own at several spots on the line, making him at the least a very valuable reserve, and that he is the best option at one of those spots.

#71 T Matt Feiler: The Buccaneers didn't do a lot of shopping on the free agency market this spring thanks to a dicey salary cap situation, but they did quietly bring in a handful of potential starters in the likes of Feiler, defensive lineman Greg Gaines and safety Ryan Neal. Feiler appears to be Plan A at left guard for the Bucs in 2023, and in retrospect this shouldn't be surprising. He started 33 games over the past two seasons at that very spot for a good Chargers offense that ranked sixth in sacks allowed per pass play. Feiler has a wealth of NFL experience, having also started for three seasons in Pittsburgh, two at right tackle and one at left guard. Feiler will come to camp intending to hold off the competition from a couple other strong starting candidates. He will also likely be focused on building chemistry with Tristan Wirfs, who is converting to left tackle, and Jensen when he gets back on the field.

#72 T Luke Haggard: The 6-6, 297-pound Haggard was considered a potential late-round draft pick coming out of Indiana this spring but he was not selected, later signing as a rookie free agent with Tampa Bay. Haggard's draft status may have been the result of a scouting report that suggests he is a talented and technically-sound blocker who will be more effective at the NFL level if he can add mass and strength. Haggard is one of four undrafted rookie linemen who signed with the Bucs, and all of them will not only be fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster but also, if that is not in the cards, a shot at the practice squad. The Bucs will almost certainly keep several offensive lineman on that 16-man unit, giving whoever lands those spots an opportunity to continue developing their talents. Haggard will report to his first NFL camp likely hoping to show he has the skills to develop into a legitimate NFL player.

#73 T Brandon Walton: Haggard and company can look to Walton as proof that an undrafted offensive lineman can stick around in the NFL if given a chance to develop. Walton came into the league as a rookie free agent with Buffalo in 2020 and subsequently spent the 2020 and 2021 seasons on the practice squads in Pittsburgh and Tampa, respectively. After that first year with the Bucs, Walton took another step forward last summer and secured a spot on the 53-man roster, eventually drawing a pair of starts at left tackle. Walton got his first start in Week Three when both Donovan Smith and Josh Wells got hurt. Wells spent the last four seasons as Tampa Bay's primary swing tackle but has since returned to his original NFL home in Jacksonville. That puts that important top reserve role up for grabs and Walton is in a good position to take hold of it. The only other tackle on the roster behind the two starters who has NNFL starting experience is Justin Skule, a midseason pickup last year. Walton demonstrated in college that he can handle both tackle positions, and he'll look to make that very clear for the Buccaneers int his year's camp.

#74 T Grant Hermanns: Hermanns does have a little bit of NFL experience, though he hasn't played a regular-season snap on offense yet. An undrafted free agent who signed with the Jets in 2021, the former Purdue blocker spent a season-and-a-half on New York's practice squad and was also on the same unit in Miami for a month last season. He then landed on the Bucs' practice squad for the last month of the season and subsequently signed a reserve/future contract to stay in Tampa and go to his first training camp with the team. Hermanns overcame two season-ending knee injuries at Purdue to rack up a good amount of starting experience at left tackle and could develop into a swing-tackle reserve in the NFL. As noted, Hermanns has already spent a lot of time on NFL practice squads, and earning another such spot in 2023 would allow him to continue with his career development, but he almost certainly has his sights set on taking the next step this year and sticking on an active roster.

#75 G John Molchon: Thanks in part to some poor preseason injury luck – he started each of his first two seasons on injured reserve before midseason activations, Molchon has been in the Bucs program for three years but has made just one regular-season appearance. He logged 42 snaps in the 2022 season finale when the Buccaneers rested most of their starters with no playoff seeding on the line. The Bucs gave Molchon a relatively large amount of guaranteed first-year money when they signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Boise State in 2020 and they clearly have appreciated his work long enough to keep him in the fold for what will now be his fourth season. Molchon made it through camp without an injury last year and that allowed him to push his career forward, as he went from the practice squad to start the season to the active roster by Week Nine. The next step for Molchon, and thus the objective for this year's training camp, is clear: Grab that spot on the 53-man roster at the beginning of the season.

#76 T Raiqwon O'Neal: O'Neal racked up 34 starts in his collegiate career, including 13 at left tackle last year after transferring from Rutgers to UCLA. Another one of the four undrafted rookies in the Bucs' O-Line room, O'Neal has room to grow, both on his 6-3, 300-pound frame and in such technical details as hand placement and footwork coming out of his stance. Like the other OL rookies, O'Neal will be looking to demonstrate that he has the raw talent to succeed in the NFL with some time to develop, which could occur with a coveted spot on the practice squad if he is unable to come out of a crowded field with a job on the regular season roster. O'Neal could have some position flexibility, as well, so if given the opportunity to work both inside and outside in camp he will surely look to take advantage of that opportunity to show his versatility.

#77 T Justin Skule: A former sixth-round pick by the 49ers, Skule has more NFL experience than many of the other young linemen who will be competing for roster spots in this year's camp. He has played in 32 regular season games, making 12 starts for San Francisco, 10 at left tackle and two at right guard. Heading into camp, Skule seems best positioned to challenge Walton for the primary swing tackle role. Since the player in that position is usually one of just three offensive line reserves kept active on game days, it's critical that he shows he can handle both tackle positions, and if he offers any additional position flexibility that's a bonus. Skule's pair of starts at guard in San Francisco would seem to indicate he has that versatility in his bag of tricks. After arriving in Tampa at midseason last year, Skule will be looking to demonstrate that he has the movement skills to be a good fit in a new offense, which is expected to implement more zone-blocking schemes in the running game.

#78 T Tristan Wirfs: Wirfs has publicly stated a goal of his for the 2023 season, and training camp is the perfect setting for him to begin working on it, so we'll go with that: He intends to become more of a vocal leader in 2023. On a recent Vikes Verified podcast, Wirfs said this: "I've really been doing my best this offseason throughout all these OTAs and throughout this minicamp just to be a little bit more vocal. Because I feel like even through college, I've never been an extremely vocal leader. I've always been a lead-by-example kind of guy – go almost under the radar. I feel like now it gets to a certain point where now I kinda got to take over." There was no question who the team looked to as its main leader during Tom Brady's three-year tenure in Tampa, and the current roster still has such highly-respected veterans as Lavonte David and Mike Evans to show young players the way. Still, this is a team in transition and it would only make sense for perhaps its best player to assume a more forward-facing role. Wirfs has been playing at an elite level since his first game in the NFL, and while he surely wants to continue to improve his game every year, he could take the biggest step forward by emerging as a much more prominent leader.

#79 DL Patrick O'Connor: O'Connor has already carved out a relatively long NFL career by being very good on special teams. With the Bucs since November of his 2017 rookie season, the former Lions sixth-round pick has played in 57 regular season games but has never logged more than 97 defensive snaps in a season. That career high came last year, in large part because he played 32 snaps in the season finale when the team rested most of its starters. O'Connor has some inside-outside flexibility and has had a reasonable amount of production when he has gotten a chance on defense, but his calling card remains his prowess in the third phase of the game. His 297 special teams snaps in 2022 were second on the team to Dee Delaney's 303, and in 2021 O'Connor led all Buccaneers with 344 special teams snaps despite missing four games. The Bucs' defensive front is in transition and is looking to incorporate some new pieces, so perhaps O'Connor can find a spot in that mix that's a bit more prominent than in past years. Barring that, though, he is sure to hit camp looking to prove once again that his value on special teams is worth a roster spot.

View some of the best pictures from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2023 Asset Shoot.

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