Demar Dotson's first career regular-season start on the offensive line will be a baptism by fire.
Facing what is widely considered the most dangerous group of pass-rushers in the NFL, Dotson will start in place of Jeremy Trueblood at right tackle on Sunday as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Trueblood, who suffered an ankle injury on the practice field back in Tampa on Wednesday, has been declared inactive for the game.
Dotson has two starts in his three NFL seasons, but both were as an extra blocking tight end in a three-TE formation. He played extensively at left tackle during the 2012 preseason while Donald Penn recovered from a calf injury and has since been working back on his more familiar right side.
"The confidence I have in Dot is high," said Head Coach Greg Schiano. "He's played a lot in the preseason, he's practiced this week, he's very athletic. It's going to be a great challenge for him."
Dotson is the second man among the Bucs' group of anticipated O-Line reserves to step into the starting lineup already this season. Third-year player Ted Larsen has already replaced Pro Bowler Davin Joseph at right guard after Joseph's season-ending knee injury in the preseason. The Bucs' other Pro Bowl guard, Carl Nicks, was also on this week's injury report due to a toe ailment, but Schiano said Nicks is fine and will take his usual spot next to Penn on Sunday.
Despite the changes, the Bucs still believe their offensive line is one of the team's main strengths. Even so, the Giants' collection of elite pass-rushers, starting with defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, presents a challenge that the Bucs will try to combat in a number of ways.
"Some things we're going to do to help the offensive line in protection," said Schiano. "We've got to try to get rid of the ball quickly. Again, get off to a good start and that will help all those things.
"It's a huge key. They're the best in the National Football League and we have to protect the quarterback. We have to run the ball effectively, and they go hand-in-hand. You've got to make sure you know where all those great pass-rushers are coming from and you'd better make sure your pass protection is appropriate for that."
The Bucs also deactivated cornerbacks E.J. Biggers and Anthony Gaitor, as expected; both were doubtful on Friday's injury report with knee and hamstring concerns, respectively. Tampa Bay's other four declared inactives are RB Michael Smith, LB Najee Goode, G Derek Hardman and DE George Johnson. With Smith inactive, the kickoff return duties will likely fall to WR Sammie Stroughter.
The receiving corps is one deeper this week, in fact. Arrelious Benn, who missed the season opener as he finished his recovery from a late-July knee injury, is active today and ready to contribute significantly on both offense and special teams.
Also not on the inactive list is running back LeGarrette Blount, who was a focus of some concern this week due to an injury that was initially difficult to pinpoint. Blount received MRI examinations to his neck and back but in the end the injury was diagnosed as a stinger and he was able to practice on Thursday and Friday without incident.
"LeGarrette's ready to go," said Schiano. "We're always going to err on the side of caution when it comes to anything where we don't really know what's going on. And we didn't, but I'm glad we did all the tests and he's been cleared to go. You should see him today."
New York's seven declared inactives are WR Jerrel Jernigan, CB Prince Amukamara, RB Da'Rel Scott, LB Keith Rivers, DE Adewale Ojomo, T James Brewer and TE Adrien Robinson. There was some hope in New York that Amukamara, last year's first-round draft pick, would be able to return this week, but he will once again be replaced in the starting lineup by Jayron Hosley. Not on the Giants' inactive list is WR Hakeem Nicks, who was listed as questionable on the Friday injury report. Nicks will play and start, as usual.
The Buccaneers have an opportunity to start the season 2-0 for just the third time in the last dozen years, but they'll have to go through the defending Super Bowl Champions – in their house – to do it. For Schiano, one of the keys to making that happen was quickly moving past the encouraging season-opening win over Carolina and focusing on the new task at hand.
"The guys did a good job – they enjoyed the victory but we have a 24-hour rule and they lived by it," he said. "They moved on and they got to work on the Giants. And the Giants had a head start on us; they had a three-day head start from a rest standpoint as well as from a preparation standpoint. Our guys got after it and now it's time to go make it happen on the field."
The Bucs will play their first regular-season road game Sunday against the Giants at MetLife Stadium, with kickoff at 1:00 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on radio through the Buccaneers Radio Network and its flagship station, US 103.5 FM. That radio broadcast will also be carried live on Buccaneers.com. Visit Buccaneers.com again at halftime and after the game for further reports on the evening's action, including coverage of the team's postgame press conferences.