The much-discussed offensive line of the Tampa Bay Bucs, ravaged by opponents a year ago, is limping already.
The line lost offensive tackle DeMar Dotson, who sprained a knee in the team’s preseason opening loss to the Minnesota Vikings Saturday night. Dotson wasn’t a star, but he was among the most steady offensive line performers for the Bucs last season. General manager Jason Licht says he was the team’s best offensive lineman.
“Demar Dotson did go down with a knee injury,” Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. “His knee’s sprained right now, that’s what we’re saying it is. He will be out for a period of time. Again, we’re in an evaluation process still with him.”
Smith said the Bucs will look at the rest of their roster to find an alternative in the time Dotson is out. Smith said that Dotson will be back this season.
“You look at our roster, guys that played, Kevin Pamphile, of course, Patrick [Omameh], has played a little bit there so just look at the tackles on our roster right now,” Smith said. “When we have an injury, it’s time for the guys to step up so that’s what we’ll do – just see what the best combination will be right away. Knee sprain, that tells you we’re not that far. Right now, he won’t play this week. [We] don’t know exactly how long he’ll be out, but we’re not to that point right there, no. We have enough information to know that.”
Smith said that Dotson was still in the game to protect rookie quarterback Jameis Winston when he was injured.
The rest of the offensive line struggled at times against Minnesota. Rookie tackle Donovan Smith gave up a sack, and rookie Ali Marpet was up-and-down.
“Both of our rookie offensive linemen did some good things,” Coach Lovie Smith said. “Every rep they get, they’ll get better.
Of course, Smith says the same thing about rookie Winston, who hit nine of 19 passes for 131 yards] with a better second quarter than the first. He hit only two of his first nine passes and had an interception. But later, he hit four in a row and ran for a touchdown.
“You would like all of your players their first time on the football field to be perfect and get off to a good start and have it go that way throughout, but that’s not the case. But what we saw from him, facing a little adversity early on, [he] hung in there. [I] looked into his eyes on the sideline, he was anxious to continue to get reps and as much as anything, the script we had drawn up was for him to finish strong. We feel like he did that.”