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Competition strong for Bucs' offensive line spots

Center Evan Smith, who saw time at guard last season, was with the starters Sunday.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times (2015)

Center Evan Smith, who saw time at guard last season, was with the starters Sunday.

TAMPA — The Bucs have competition in the middle of their offensive line, with Evan Smith working as the starting center during Sunday's practice and returning starter Joe Hawley working with the second unit.

"We're alternating Evan and Joe every couple of days, so … 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 an ankle in Week 2. Hawley, 27, started the rest of the season, even after Smith returned. Smith started three games at right guard in 2015 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. Free agent signee J.R. Sweezy hasn't practiced since signing with the Bucs in March because of back and calf injuries. The other starting linemen 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 practiced after getting a "veteran's day" off Saturday. Rookie Caleb Benenoch, who had filled in at right tackle Saturday and was working as the second-string right guard, turned an ankle in practice Sunday and did not return. Koetter did not have details on the severity of the injury. It wasn't believed to be significant.

This and that: QB Jameis Winston threw two interceptions. CB Alterraun Verner came down with a long pass, and LB Daryl Smith dived to catch a pass tipped by WR Vincent Jackson. … When Benenoch was out, the Bucs had undrafted rookie Taylor Fallin of Memphis working as the second-team right guard. … The Bucs worked extensively on special teams, with WRs Adam Humphries, Bernard Reedy and newcomer Jonathan Krause rotating at returner in what should be a wide-open competition.

Contact Greg Auman at gauman@tampabay.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

Competition strong for Bucs' offensive line spots 07/31/16 [Last modified: Sunday, July 31, 2016 11:23pm]
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