Donald Penn is back, but Demar Dotson is still swinging into action for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Dotson, the fourth-year lineman who manned the left tackle position on the Buccaneers' first-team line while Penn was out for three weeks with a calf injury, was seen getting snaps with the starters at right tackle during several full-team drills on Tuesday morning. That shouldn't come as a surprise, given one role that Dotson could very well fill for the offense this fall.
NFL teams ordinarily carry nine or 10 offensive linemen on their 53-man rosters, but usually keep fewer than that active on game days. It is not uncommon for a team to keep just seven members of the OL active for a game – the five starters plus one backup who can fill in at the three interior spots and one that can step in at either tackle position. A versatile reserve who is comfortable on either the left or right edge of the line is often referred to as a "swing tackle."
The Bucs' depth chart lists Penn as the starter at left tackle and Jeremy Trueblood as the starter at right tackle and, indeed, those two who have manned those spots for the better part of the last half-decade. Tampa Bay coaches just got a long look at what Dotson could do at left tackle – where he had previously seen little playing time – and now they want to see him operate on the right side with the starters a little bit.
Head Coach Greg Schiano said that Dotson's play during Penn's absence has made it hard for him to simply push Dotson to the background after the starter's return.
"Well I mean he was playing the entire training camp at the left side with the ones, so I don't think it was right to just move him back to the twos period," said Schiano. "I want him to still work a little bit there [with the first team]."
Schiano said that he has no reason to believe the Buccaneers will alter their starting five on the OL depth chart before the start of the regular season, but that won't stop him from getting Dotson some well-earned exposure with the front line.
"There's competition at every spot, you know?" said the coach. "It's no indication that Trueblood hasn't done a good job, it's just we want to make sure that everybody has a fair chance. I think it will be that [expected starting line], but you always investigate."