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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Iron Sharpens Iron | Brianna's Blitz

With mandatory minicamp in full swing, one-on-one matchups optimize talent on the offensive and defensive line. 

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Individual player development enhances the roster as a whole. However, trying to measure an individual's improvement is challenging because there is no blueprint or identical timetable for each individual athlete. Everyone is unique, but the popular phrase, "iron sharpens iron" does materialize in one-on-one drills throughout the offseason workout program. In fact, center Ryan Jensen employed the term on Tuesday after the first practice of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' three-day minicamp. As offensive and defensive linemen face-off during mandatory minicamp, they are given a competitive advantage.

For the Buccaneers, the trenches will look different in 2022 with new faces joining the lineup on both sides of the football. Following the retirement of Ali Marpet and the departure of Alex Cappa in free agency (Bengals), the offensive line has been revamped. The Bucs acquired right guard Shaq Mason from the Patriots via trade and both veteran Aaron Stinnie and rookie Luke Goedeke will compete for the starting job at left guard.

On the change surrounding him in the interior, Jensen described, "I always joke around that we went from a 6-6, 6-7 guy at right guard (Cappa) to Shaq who is 6-1, so it's a little different in the huddle. But it's been good, Shaq has played a lot of football in his career, obviously. I think he has 100 starts, so he knows how to play the game and that helps a lot when trying to re-develop a relationship on the interior. Then Stinnie, obviously the Super Bowl run, he played all the way through the playoffs and has been here for a couple years now. I'm next to him a lot so I feel like the gelling of the interior line has come a long way."

Tampa Bay sent their 2022 fifth-round pick to New England in order to secure the trade for Mason. In seven seasons with the Patriots, he started 111 of 116 game appearances. Mason is an anchor in pass protection and in the run game and he has the athleticism to get up field and push defenders off the line of scrimmage. He will help solidify Tom Brady's group of guardians.

Stinnie has spent the past two-and-a-half seasons with the Bucs after initially arriving in Tampa Bay as a waiver claim in November of 2019. During the Bucs' quest for the Super Bowl LV championship, Stinnie stepped in for the injured Alex Cappa at right guard and was praised for his performance in three postseason starts. Stinnie then competed with Cappa for the starting job in 2021, however the Bucs chose to remain with Cappa. During his tenure, Stinnie has played in 23 games with four starts, including the playoffs. He now has the chance to compete for a starting role on Tampa Bay's esteemed line. His familiarity and continuity with Jensen will certainly help solidify his case for the vacant position.

Goedeke, the club's second second-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, was a two-year starter at right tackle for Central Michigan in their zone-blocking scheme. Despite his full-time role at tackle filling CMU's glaring need, his natural fit in the NFL is at guard. With his power and center of gravity, Goedeke has the makings of becoming a mainstay in the line through development at the pro level. He stays centered in blocks with lower body fluidity and has only scratched the surface.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Buccaneers added talent to replace the contribution of Ndamukong Suh. With the first pick in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Bucs selected Logan Hall, and they folllowed that by signing veteran Akiem Hicks to a one-year deal last Wednesday. Following the first day of mandatory minicamp practice, Head Coach Todd Bowles confirmed that Hicks will be counted on to play "a lot," but the percentage of snaps in the rotation is currently unknown. Hall will factor into the decision as both get work at the three-technique spot.

Hall, the former Houston standout possesses tremendous lateral quickness to penetrate gaps in the run game and has great processing skills to react and disrupt screens/motions, which will be a premium in today's NFL as both have evolved to an extension of the run game. Hall provides an interior pass rush element to fortify the defensive line and will continue to improve his pad level during practice this week at the AdventHealth Training Center. Hicks, a former defensive tackle for the Bears, will provide a veteran presence to the line that as Suh did the past three years. Hicks has 40.5 sacks, 387 tackles and 6 forced fumbles in 10 NFL seasons. He was an effective defender in Chicago over six seasons and among the top run-stoppers in the NFL, garnering a Pro Bowl nod in 2018. The stout defensive weapons on the Bucs' roster were a draw for Hicks as he strives to cement his legacy in Tampa Bay. Hicks has long been an admirer of Vita Vea and will now have the opportunity to stand next to the man he watched from afar.

"I've been watching him for a couple years, and one of the things that I love that he does is push up the field," Hicks stated. "He disrupts that pocket quite a bit. It's something that a powerful…guys that play with power, like myself, we admire."

Hicks is looking forward to playing in the Bucs' attack-styled 3-4 base defense with a variety of sub-packages. The goal is to hunt the quarterback and out at practice, Hicks will first have to step through the club's talented offensive linemen across the line of scrimmage to get to Brady. Games are often dictated by who wins their one-on-one matchups at the line of scrimmage and out at practice during mandatory minicamp, competition is heating up, breeding success on the grass and optimizing talent.

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