When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost Pro Bowl right guard Davin Joseph to injury earlier this season, questions swirled as to who would be called upon to replace him.
Who would have guessed the answer would be Jamon Meredith, a fourth-year player who joined the Bucs this offseason primarily to add depth at tackle, not guard, and who had started a grand total of four games in his first three seasons in the NFL? Furthermore, who could have predicted that the early returns on Meredith's unexpected promotion and position switch would be so fruitful? Tampa Bay's offense is alive and well, thank you, and Meredith is more than holding his own in the hot seat created by Joseph's injury.
For his part, Meredith sticks to the Bucs' well-worn and well-earned adage of "next man up. He says the position switch and climb up the depth chart are all about doing his best to help the team.
"The Lord blessed me with versatility, so I was able to play multiple positions – I played a little bit of guard in college my senior year, but I was mostly at tackle my whole career," Meredith said. "I'm able to fill in when my team needs me. I think I'm a natural lineman, period. I think I'll be able to play any position if I need to, but I'm growing into a guard because that's where I'm playing now. God forbid something were to happen and I had to play tackle, I believe I could get the job done there too."
While the differences between guard and tackle might seem minute to most, Meredith says there are definitely some intricacies he's had to pay attention to.
"As far as the difference, at guard you're doing a lot of pulling," Meredith said, referring to running plays in which one of the guards leaves his usual spot and provides extra blocking on the run. "At tackle, you're not used to pulling and that's a different aspect of the game. As far as pass protection, things happen a lot faster at guard than they do at tackle, but as a backup offensive lineman, you have to be able to play multiple positions. This is a good experience for me, and I'm happy to get the opportunity. God blessed me and is keeping me healthy."
Fortunately, Meredith says he has a fantastic resource at his disposal as he continues to blossom at his new position – the man he's replacing.
"Nobody's putting any added pressure on me, it's just 'next man up,'" Meredith said. "You come in, you play, and the offense keeps rolling. We miss Davin, especially his presence around here, but injuries are part of the game. When somebody gets injured, the Lord blesses somebody else with the opportunity. The good thing about Davin is he's always around, so he's able to give me coaching points and give me advice on the guys I'm going against. It's like I've got an extra coach off the field to help me out a bit, so it's a lot easier that way to deal with stuff."
With Joseph's guidance, Meredith has stepped into the void created by his teammate's unfortunate injury and performed well, starting in each of the Bucs' last four games. Whether it's a coincidence or not, that stretch has seen the Tampa Bay offense explode, most notably through running back Doug Martin's 251-yard, four-touchdown performance last week in Oakland.
Unsurprisingly – considering offensive linemen are typically content to toil away in relative obscurity – Meredith said he was simply proud to be a part of Martin's record-setting day. But as he continues to flourish in his new role, Meredith says he looks forward to even greater success from the offense as a whole.
"Just being out there watching Doug and being able to block for him, just watching him grow into his own, it was amazing," Meredith said. "Just to see that dude blossom in front of our eyes, I'm excited for him because he's such a humble person. As a unit, I think we all got the job done, but obviously Doug makes it a lot easier for us."