Evan Smith challenging Hawley for Bucs' starting center job
The Bucs have competition in the middle of their offensive line, with Evan Smith working as the team's starting center during Sunday's practice, with returning starter Joe Hawley working with the second unit.
"We're alternating Evan and Joe every couple of days, so as we said, there's competition there," coach Dirk Koetter said. "We want competition like that at every position if we can get it."
Smith, 30, opened last season as the starting center but injured his ankle in Week 2, and Hawley, 27, took over and started the rest of the season, even after Smith had returned healthy. Smith started three games at right guard but is back competing for the starting center role he had throughout the 2014 season.
"Me and Joe are good friends. We talk a lot, we see a lot of the same stuff," Smith said. "That's just football, man. It's competition. You've got to go out here and play, you've got to compete, and at the end of the day they want the best five on the field."
For now, that includes third-year pro Kevin Pamphile at left guard, as free-agent signee J.R. Sweezy still hasn't practiced since signing with the Bucs in March, due to back and calf injuries. The other starting linemen have remained the same throughout four practices of training camp, with Donovan Smith at left tackle, Ali Marpet at right guard and Demar Dotson at right tackle.
INJURY UPDATE: Backup RT Gosder Cherilus was back at practice after getting a "veteran's day" off Saturday, but rookie Caleb Benenoch, who had filled in at right tackle Saturday and was working as the second-string right guard, turned his ankle in practice Sunday and did not return. Koetter did not have any details on the severity of the injury.