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Center Ryan Jensen should bring some fight to Bucs’ offensive line

The Ravens free agent describes himself as a 'scrapper' and believes he is a perfect fit for what the Bucs want to accomplish.
Offensive linemen Cole Boozer (64), Ryan Jensen (66) and Brad Seaton (60) stretch during OTAs earlier this month at One Buc Place. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Offensive linemen Cole Boozer (64), Ryan Jensen (66) and Brad Seaton (60) stretch during OTAs earlier this month at One Buc Place. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Published May 31, 2018
Updated Jun. 1, 2018

TAMPA – Ryan Jensen was watching Game 7 of the NHL Eastern Conference final when the Lightning's Braydon Coburn and the Capitals' Tom Wilson came out of the penalty box and immediately began throwing punches.

"I played the wrong sport #hockeyfight," Jensen tweeted.

On Thursday, after the Bucs' sixth organized team activity, Jensen clarified his tweet.

"Just joking around. I'm kind of a scrapper on the field, so when that fight happened in Game 7, it got me excited, and it was fun to watch,'' he said.

Jensen will be fun to watch this season as the Bucs' center.

"I'm excited to have one of the toughest, meanest, baddest centers out there,'' quarterback Jameis Winston said of Jensen last week.

It's Jensen's play-to-the-echo-of-the-whistle attitude that the Bucs were seeking in the offseason to improve their offensive line, particularly in the run game. The team ranked No. 27 in rushing offense last year, averaging 90.6 yards.

The Ravens free agent was such a good fit, the Bucs decided to move Ali Marpet to left guard in order to clear the center position for Jensen.

Although there is no real contact allowed for offensive and defensive linemen during OTAs, coach Dirk Koetter already likes what he has seen from Jensen.

"Ryan has fit right in,'' Koetter said. "He's fit right in with our other guys. You can tell that he's a gritty player, and that's something that we were looking for in all the guys that we added. Because he's got experience, he's a smart player, even though he's adjusting from the Ravens' system to our system. He's really picked things up quickly. You can just tell that he's going to make us — with him and Ali (Marpet) inside and however it ends up at right guard — it's going to make us pretty solid inside."

The biggest adjustment will be working with Winston, who makes most of the protection calls.

"Jameis takes a little bit more control of things … where I was used to doing everything,'' Jensen said, recalling his Ravens days. "Getting that chemistry with Jameis is really starting to come along.''

The offensive line will continue to be a work in progress through training camp and the preseason. Marpet, who played right guard before moving to center in 2017, is starting at left guard. The Bucs would like to play Caleb Benenoch or J.R. Sweezy, who is recovering from knee surgery, at right guard. But that depends on the health of right tackle Demar Dotson, who tore the meniscus in his knee and will miss offseason workouts and the mandatory minicamp.
Jensen said he has benefited from some of the team's returning offensive linemen.

"(Marpet) helped me a lot actually, learning a new playbook, and it's been really nice having a couple of vet guys be able to help me with the playbook,'' Jensen said.
"With anything, it takes time. But going into our sixth OTA, we're starting to mesh better and the communication is big with the way we communicate with each other and having a couple new pieces in there. It makes it a little tough, but we're getting there.
"Definitely, chemistry with the personalities and things like that, we're all a younger group, and we can relate to each other very well, and we hang out together and stuff like that. So the chemistry is very big on the offensive line, and we're really starting to click.''

If his playing history is any indication, Jensen might bring a little more fight to the line.

"Ah, I mean, there's a place for it,'' he said.

EXTRAS: Defensive end Noah Spence said he was as light as 228 pounds last summer but is now 257, carrying the confidence of added bulk. Shoulder has recovered well from surgery, now full range of motion. … Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was still not at the voluntary workouts, along with defensive end Vinny Curry. Cornerback Brent Grimes was there earlier in the week but not Thursday. … Donovan Smith was back healthy and working as first-string left tackle.
Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.