Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph suffered a season-ending knee injury on Friday, August 24, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' regular season begins on Sunday, September 9. One of the most important tasks for the Buccaneers in the 16 days between those two events is identifying the best option to replace Joseph at right guard and help the offensive line remain the team's strength.
The Bucs had their first practice day following Friday's game against New England washed out by Tropical Storm Isaac on Monday. On Tuesday, the players were back on the field and the team began looking at some new O-Line depth chart permutations. The team will obviously consider a pair of third-year men, Ted Larsen and Derek Hardman, for the job, and starting center Jeremy Zuttah has extensive experience at both guard spots. The Bucs also tried another less-anticipated candidate on Tuesday: Jamon Meredith.
Meredith is listed as the team's second-string right tackle on the depth chart, and he has played primarily on the outside during his first three years in the league. He worked at guard last year while with the Pittsburgh Steelers but did not see action at that spot in a game. He is confident he could help the Buccaneers on the inside.
"I can play everything except for center," said Meredith after Tuesday's practice. "I definitely think I'm versatile. I can play anywhere and hold my own."
Head Coach Greg Schiano said the team will continue to survey different right guard options in the coming days, including during Wednesday's preseason finale at Washington. Even though only one player can be chosen to replace Joseph, the exploration of different options will help solidify the team's contingency plans all along the offensive front.
"We're looking at a bunch of guys at guard," he said. "We're going to have different guys in there, Harden and Larsen, Meredith. We're going to play a bunch of guys at guard and then we'll make use of that film as part of our evaluation process. Right now we have time before we have to make a final decision so we're going to utilize that time.
"Position flexibility in this league is more important than at any other level because if you go into a game with seven [active] offensive lineman, that guy better be able to do multiple things. That's what we have fortunately."