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Tampa Bay Buccaneers' draft preview: Offensive linemen

Pairing Saints free agent Carl Nicks, above, with Davin Joseph gives the Bucs a top guard duo.

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Pairing Saints free agent Carl Nicks, above, with Davin Joseph gives the Bucs a top guard duo.

The situation

If there's one unit the Bucs feel good about, it's offensive line. Three of their starters have been to the Pro Bowl, now that the unit has been bolstered by Saints free agent guard Carl Nicks. Along with right guard Davin Joseph, the Bucs arguably have the best pair of guards in the league.

The whole interior of the offensive line is a strength when you factor in center Jeremy Zuttah, the recipient of a contract extension and the successor to longtime center Jeff Faine, who has been released. Zuttah is considered a more natural center than guard, after playing mostly the latter.

At left tackle, Donald Penn returns after regressing a bit last season, perhaps because of an ongoing weight issue. But he still is considered the answer at the critical position that protects the blindside of quarterback Josh Freeman.

Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood is in a contract year, and the team's decision on keeping him beyond 2012 likely depends on how he performs in the fall.

The team has some key backups, including Ted Larsen of Palm Harbor. He essentially takes over the role often held by Zuttah in recent seasons, the primary backup for all three interior positions.

Tackles Demar Dotson and Derek Hardman are the next two linemen in the pecking order and could battle in camp to decide who is first off the bench.

What they're looking for

The Bucs don't figure to look for offensive line help in the early rounds. But depth and competition are essential up front, and the team is always looking for good offensive line pickups.

Judging by the vibes from players and coaches, the team will lean toward tough, run-blocking types.

Fitting the bill

A possible middle-round choice who is regarded for his toughness and run blocking is Auburn tackle Brandon Mosley. He has played left and right tackle, but could play on the right in the NFL.

While not necessarily the ideal fit for the team, Rutgers guard Desmond Wynn was recruited by and played for Bucs coach Greg Schiano in college. Wynn started 25 straight games for the Scarlet Knights.

The top 10

1. Matt Kalil 6-6½, 305, USC (tackle) The nation's top lineman plays the line's most important position. Older brother Ryan is the Panthers' starting center.
2. David DeCastro 6-5, 316, Stanford (guard) Uses impressive upper-body strength to drive defenders backward. Also has a quick jump off the ball.
3. Riley Reiff 6-6, 313, Iowa (tackle) Excellent footwork and technique makes him versatile enough to play on either side of the line in the league.
4. Mike Adams 6-7, 323, Ohio State (tackle) A good athlete for his size and is particularly nimble. His injury history is a bit of a question.
5. Jonathan Martin 6-5, 312, Stanford (tackle) A powerful run blocker who played in a potent, pro-style offense. Could be ready to play immediately.
6. Cordy Glenn 6-5, 345, Georgia (guard/tackle) Considered a "tweener" because he has played both guard and tackle in college and because his weight might be a problem at tackle.
7. Bobby Massie 6-6, 316, Mississippi (tackle) A good athlete with good feet. A three-year starter who uses his size well to overwhelm opponents physically.
8. Peter Konz 6-5, 314, Wisconsin (center) The elite player at his position, he could play immediately. Considered a very effective run blocker.
9. Kevin Zeitler 6-4, 314, Wisconsin (guard) Known to finish his blocks well. Also capable of taking on linebackers down the field.
10. Amini Silatolu 6-4, 311, Midwestern State (tackle/guard) Played tackle in college but is a projected guard as a pro. Battled knee and hamstring injuries during his senior season.

Best guess

The Bucs aren't likely to select an offensive lineman in the early rounds unless a premier player — like Kalil — unexpectedly falls to them. It's more likely they will look for later-round steals to augment what they currently have.

Stephen F. Holder, Times staff writer

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' draft preview: Offensive linemen 04/22/12 [Last modified: Sunday, April 22, 2012 9:24pm]
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