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Sunday, Sep 21, 2014
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers revamped offensive line has week to prepare for Panthers

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— An offensive line that has yet to take its first practice snap together has just six days to figure out how to control a defense that ranked second overall while leading the league in sacks last year.

Mission impossible, you say?

Not so, says Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith.

Smith knows all about the theory that argues that an offensive line needs to play together over a long stretch of time to develop cohesion and chemistry. But he doesn’t necessarily subscribe to it.

“Yes, it’s been talked about an awful lot, that the offensive line, they have to play together and they have to start games (together),’’ Smith said. “But I don’t buy that completely. Not completely at all.

“I think you get the best possible guys when you can and you make moves when you have to, and for us, (we had) an opportunity to improve our line the way we did with a veteran player.’’

That veteran player is six-time Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins, who was acquired in a trade with the Patriots on Tuesday but won’t take his first practice snap with the Bucs until today.

That means Mankins has less than a week to adjust to a new offense, a new offensive line and a new quarterback before the Bucs take on the Carolina Panthers in their opener Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

That’s not an easy task, even for a 10-year veteran such as Mankins, and Mankins admitted as much during his introductory news conference.

“I’m sure the guys are going to help me as much as possible, and I’m going to try my best to be up to speed with them, but I don’t know if it will happen,’’ he said. “But I’m definitely shooting for it.’’

Though Mankins has reservations, Smith doesn’t seem to have concerns about Mankins hitting his target. He said he could tell from watching Mankins work out Friday at One Buc Place that he’ll be ready to play at a high level for the opener.

“He knows how to get himself ready,’’ Smith said. “And yes, he’ll have to (learn) a little bit of (new) terminology, but not as much as you would assume. It won’t be an issue. That won’t stop him from playing a great game.

“Again, you can change the names, but he’s seen a lot of different looks, just about all the different looks and different blitzes you can see, and he played Carolina (during) his last (preseason) game as a Patriot, so he should be OK.’’

Mankins might be OK, but what about everyone else on the line? After all, the trade for Mankins, who is expected to supplant Oniel Cousins at left guard, might not be the only changing of the guard that takes place this week.

There is also a chance the Bucs will make a move at right guard, where Patrick Omameh started the last three preseason games after replacing the since-released Jamon Meredith as the starter.

Smith said after the Bucs’ 24-10 loss to Washington in the preseason finale that he was pleased with the makeup of the line and its progress, but he wasn’t ready to commit to sticking with Omameh at right guard.

One reason might be the recent addition of second-year guard Rishaw Johnson, acquired in a trade early last week with the Kansas City Chiefs for safety Kelcie McCray.

The Bucs are high on Johnson and there’s a chance he could step in this week as the new starter at right guard. There’s even a possibility the Bucs will move Cousins, a seven-year veteran, to that spot.

Smith seemed to suggest, though, that with the exception of left guard, the group that started the two middle games of the preseason would start the season opener against Carolina.

“(The starting offensive line) has come together and just kind of based on the last time they played together, we like where we are going (heading) into the Carolina game,’’ Smith said.

Even if they have only a short time to get there.

rcummings@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7979

Twitter: @RCummingsTBO

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