Friday, April 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Demar Dotson returns to starting role on Bucs offensive line

TAMPA — Demar Dotson had missed a full three months of football with a knee injury, and when he returned to the Bucs, he initially played only special teams, working on extra points and field goals for 14 total plays in his first three games.

Then Sunday, he found himself back home as the starting right tackle, playing every snap in a 23-19 win over the Falcons. Understandably, the 30-year-old was feeling physically drained by the end of the game.

"I felt pretty good. I was a little tired, my back was locking up and the legs were getting fatigued on me," Dotson said. "I was pushing through it. That was my first game I'd played in a long time. There were little ups and downs, but that young kid Jameis (Winston), he was pushing me through it the whole time. I can't say enough about him."

With Dotson — the longest-tenured Buc, on the roster since 2009 — stepping in for Gosder Cherilus at right tackle and rookie Ali Marpet returning from a three-week injury at right guard, Tampa Bay was able to make key changes on its offensive line without skipping a beat. That line, pushing each other to finish the game strong, gave up only one sack of Winston, while helping a running game that piled up 166 yards.

"It's hard, coming back. It was hard for me. I couldn't imagine that," Marpet said of Dotson's long absence. "I think (Winston) and (center) Joe (Hawley) are the biggest motivators that get you through those long drives."

Dotson had a holding penalty during the winning drive late in the fourth quarter, but the offense overcame it, trusting in him to play at a high level in his first game back as a starter.

"Demar did a really nice job," offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. "Going into the season, arguably we would have said Logan (Mankins) and Dot are our two best returning linemen, and here he is … making his first appearance in a long time. He's been foaming at the mouth to play, too."

Offensive line coach George Warhop was pleased with how well Dotson handled his recovery from injury and his patience in his return to the line.

"He's been working to that. He had an opportunity, he went out and performed," Warhop said. "It's fortunate we have the guys we've got, because they all have handled it extremely well. The room is as good a room as I've been involved with, period."

Warhop now has the luxury of depth. Evan Smith, who began the season as the starting center and filled in three games at right guard when Marpet was out, is now a backup. On Sunday, so was Cherilus, who had played every snap in the first 11 games after being signed following Dotson's injury.

The Bucs haven't had dropoffs when they've made changes on the line, such that Warhop has confidence in any combination he could use from his top eight linemen, including Kevin Pamphile, who has started one game and played extensively as a sixth lineman in the team's "heavy" package.

"With this group, I don't care who plays," Warhop said. "I really don't. We're very fortunate. That's not always the case at all. Right now, the decision is the guys that have been in there functioning the best. … I can't speak highly enough about Dot and Evan and how they handled the situation."

Dotson, who was negotiating a contract extension during the summer before a brief holdout and then his injury, hopes to use these final four regular-season games as a chance to re-establish himself as a reliable starter at right tackle, though he doesn't know for sure if he'll have that opportunity.

"I don't know what they're going to do," said Dotson, excited at the possibility of making the playoffs for the first time in his seven NFL seasons. "They could go back to what it was in the beginning. Whatever they do, I just accept it. If I'm starting, I'm starting. If not, I have to be the best backup I can be."

Contact Greg Auman at [email protected]ay.com.

Comments
NFL draft confessions: The Bucs set the trap, and I took the cheese on Johnny Manziel

NFL draft confessions: The Bucs set the trap, and I took the cheese on Johnny Manziel

TAMPA — The NFL draft is one big game of Liar's Poker. Deal me out.Even the guys with a seat at the table don't know when someone is bluffing.Bucs general manager Jason Licht knows that the team's No. 7 overall pick this year will be affected b...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Bucs’ Jameis Winston, Mike Evans catch Miami Heat game from courtside

Bucs’ Jameis Winston, Mike Evans catch Miami Heat game from courtside

We've seen Jameis Winston and Mike Evans bonding this offseason, going to Texas A&M pro day together, among other events. The two Bucs stars and their significant others double-dated Thursday night, getting courtside seats to watch the Miami Heat in ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Bucs have a tough start to their schedule

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Bucs have a tough start to their schedule

The NFL did the Bucs no favors with their 2018 schedule, Rick Stroud says, making them open at New Orleans, followed by home games against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Plus, linebacker Kendall Beckwith had surgery to repair a broken ankle, p...
Published: 04/20/18
Here’s the Bucs’ full 2018 schedule

Here’s the Bucs’ full 2018 schedule

TAMPA — How good can the Bucs be in 2018? Fans will get a good sense in the first three weeks, as Tampa Bay opens the year with three of its toughest games, all against reigning division champions. The Bucs open 2018 in New Orleans on Sept. 9 ...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith fractured ankle in car accident

Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith fractured ankle in car accident

TAMPA – Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith had surgery to repair a broken ankle he suffered in a car accident in Louisiana last week, putting his status for the start of the season in question.Beckwith was passenger in car driven by former L...
Published: 04/19/18
Bucs’ home schedule leaked: Hosting Eagles in Week 2

Bucs’ home schedule leaked: Hosting Eagles in Week 2

The 2018 NFL schedule won't be released until 8 p.m. tonight, but the Bucs' eight home games were posted early — and presumably accidentally — on the team's site, showing what would be a daunting start to the upcoming season.Multiple outl...
Published: 04/19/18
Is Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick a first-round fit for the Bucs?

Is Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick a first-round fit for the Bucs?

Minkah FitzpatrickPosition: SafetyCollege: AlabamaHeight/Weight: 6-1, 201Draft projection: First roundWhy Fitzpatrick makes sense for the BucsOne of the Bucs' biggest needs is to improve their secondary. Fitzpatrick is a playmaker, arguably the best ...
Published: 04/17/18
Jameis Winston set to make $21 million in 2019 as Bucs pick up his option

Jameis Winston set to make $21 million in 2019 as Bucs pick up his option

TAMPA — Jameis Winston is headed for a big pay day after this season, whether he gets a contract extension or not.The Bucs on Tuesday picked up the fifth-year option on Winston's rookie contract worth $20.9 million for 2019. The deal is not gua...
Published: 04/17/18
Get to know potential Bucs NFL draft target Vita Vea of Washington

Get to know potential Bucs NFL draft target Vita Vea of Washington

As next week's NFL draft nears, Bucs fans might want to learn a little more about a potential target at No. 7: Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea.The 6-foot-4, 347-pound monster moves very well for someone his size and could be an intriguing option...
Published: 04/17/18
DeSean Jackson and Jameis Winston were in perfect harmony on Day 1

DeSean Jackson and Jameis Winston were in perfect harmony on Day 1

TAMPA — DeSean Jackson and Jameis Winston were finally on the same page.For the first day of the offseason workout program, anyway.Jackson, 31, is coming off one of the worst seasons of his 10-year career with 50 catches for only 668 yards and ...
Published: 04/16/18