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Ryan Jensen delivers snaps as Bucs’ offensive line renovation ensues

Meantime, coach Todd Bowles suggests the left side of the line is essentially set.
 
Tampa Bay Times
[ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published June 14, 2023

TAMPA — Amid a refurbished offensive line and rebuilt quarterback depth chart, Tom Brady’s influence — and idiosyncrasies — remain embedded at AdventHealth Training Center.

Among them: Brady’s insistence that his centers keep towels stuffed down their pants to minimize sweat and slickness on the ball, though the liberal doses of baby powder that Brady demanded on the towels evidently has become more optional than compulsory.

“As of right now, it’s not looking as strict, other than the towels,” third-year quarterback Kyle Trask said after Day 1 of the team’s three-day mandatory minicamp. “We’ve got the towels down, but we could use a little more baby powder.”

Ball moisture aside, Tuesday morning’s workout — which included all players on campus if not on the practice field — represented a dry run of sorts for a line expected to feature new starters at four of the five positions. That initial glimpse revealed a left side teeming with size and savvy, a right side brimming with competition and questions, and mild optimism at center.

Perhaps the most glaring development: Veteran center Ryan Jensen, who tore three knee ligaments less than 11 months ago and appeared in only one game last season (the playoff loss to the Cowboys), suited up and delivered snaps at the outset of practice, devoid of shoulder pads and full contact.

Jensen didn’t partake in team drills, but was seen running to the side with guard Aaron Stinnie, also sidelined in 2022 by torn knee ligaments.

“Physically, we’re seeing where he is,” coach Todd Bowles said, “and getting the mental tests done and the physical tests.”

If and when Jensen returns, he’ll almost certainly be flanked on the left side by tackle Tristan Wirfs — continuing his transition from right tackle as a replacement for Donovan Smith — and 30-year-old left guard Matt Feiler (73 regular-season NFL starts), signed in April a month after being released by the Chargers.

Bowles indicated Tuesday the left guard spot now is Feiler’s to lose. “He comes in with a ton of experience, veteran guy,” Trask said. “I think he’s very solid up front; a lot of good tape, a lot of good experience, and I think he’s really going to help us.”

Elsewhere, the depth chart isn’t nearly as definitive.

On Tuesday, the team continued working beleaguered 2022 second-round pick Luke Goedeke, who mostly struggled in eight starts at left guard last season, at right tackle. Next to him, the smorgasbord of competitors at right guard includes second-round draft pick Cody Mauch, third-year guys Nick Leverett and Robert Hainsey (still the first-team center until Jensen’s return), and possibly Stinnie, who shined at the position in the 2020 postseason after Alex Cappa broke his leg.

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Don’t expect the dust — or powder — to settle on that side any time soon. The competition coincides with the installment of a new system certain to feature more of an outside zone blocking scheme that should help resuscitate a rushing yards per game (76.9) and rushing attempts (386) in 2022.

“Obviously we’re all learning a new offense, so it’s very difficult, we’re learning new terminology,” receiver Chris Godwin said following Tuesday’s practice.

“I feel like as things start to kind of jell, I think that we’re all going to really like it. I think the coaches have done a really good job of making it digestible for guys, but also encouraging guys and not necessarily harping on mistakes, and I think that’s going to really encourage the offensive linemen — new and old — to just want to continue to push forward.”

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