Sunday, September 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

When line needs arise, Bucs just plug in Pamphile

TAMPA — He has made just four starts in his NFL career, yet has earned the confidence of his coaches and teammates.

He's played primarily as a "jumbo" tight end when the Bucs use a six-man offensive line, yet in all likelihood, he will be a starting guard for the first month of the upcoming season.

Kevin Pamphile has been tasked with replacing not one but two $6 million guards, all while making just $600,000 in his third NFL season.

"He's been looking phenomenal," center Joe Hawley said Monday, having lined up next to him for the entire offseason. "He really came in ready to compete. … It's a great opportunity for him to step in there and show the team what he can do. I don't think he wants to be labeled a backup his whole career. I think he wants to get in there and start."

The Bucs had a seven-time Pro Bowl left guard in Logan Mankins, but he retired after last season. They wrote a big check in free agency to bring in J.R. Sweezy from Seattle, but he's yet to practice with the Bucs, shelved by back surgery that is expected to cost him the first five games of the season.

In steps Pamphile, a fifth-round draft pick in 2014 out of Purdue who has been a backup at tackle and guard, filling in as a starter once last season when Mankins was injured.

First-year head coach Dirk Koetter likes the competition that Pamphile, 25, has shown, preparing as if he's a starter, even when others are in line for the job.

"He's doing well," said Koetter, whose team will practice in Jacksonville today and Thursday with the Jaguars in preparation for Saturday's preseason game. "I've said multiple times that if J.R. wasn't ready, we'd be fine with Kevin at left guard. In Kevin's mind, he was coming out to compete for a first-team position regardless of what happened with J.R., so he's handling himself well, and now he's in position to play."

For the last two practices, Pamphile has actually been the starting left tackle, as Donovan Smith has been sidelined with the flu. It's just a short-term cameo, but typifies his mentality of being ready to help out, wherever he's needed.

"I like to be called the jack of all trades," said Pamphile, who didn't take up football until his senior year of high school in Miami, having averaged a double-double in basketball as a junior. "Dirk Koetter, he's mentioned that to me. Honestly, I own up to that. If that's my nickname for now, I'll take that."

Pamphile has made a career of adjusting. He went to college as a defensive tackle and didn't start on the offensive line until he was a redshirt junior, spending his last two years as the Boilermakers' left tackle.

Offensive line was one of the Bucs' most improved position last season, greatly reducing the number of sacks allowed and clearing a path for Doug Martin to finish second in the NFL in rushing. To continue that without Mankins — and for a while at least, without Sweezy — they'll count on Pamphile to help protect quarterback Jameis Winston.

"I think he's playing awesome football," right guard Ali Marpet said. "I think that he's a starting caliber guard, there's no question. So it's awesome to have that depth."

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