Josh Freeman

Can’t Not Be Feelin’ Dis: Guards And Centers

March 03, 2011 at 02:45pm by Scott   •  2 Comments »

Scaring the shit out of you since 2006.
CURRENT ROSTER: Davin Joseph, Jeremy Zuttah, Ted Larsen, Brandon Carter, Derek Hardman, Marc Dile, John Malecki, Jeff Faine

The top guard on this list is also the top priority for the Bucs. Davin Joseph is a free agent with five years of service, so the Bucs went ahead and tendered him as a restricted free agent. That’s not going to stick, so it’s most likely he’ll be unrestricted by the time anyone can do anything about it. The Bucs want Joseph back and they’re prepared to pay him, but they’re not going to go nuts with it, either. If some team out there really wants him, they can outbid the Bucs and he’ll be gone. I don’t think that’s happening, though. Joseph is exactly the kind of player that Pat Morris likes on his line: big and powerful. And I just don’t think he commands elite guard pay around the league, so I don’t think there will be too much of a bidding war for his services.

Zuttah has been serviceable and occasionally disappointing, but he is good enough to fill in gaps as a backup for any interior line position. He functions best as a center, which seems to be proven out by the fact that Ted Larsen beat him for the left guard spot but Zuttah held onto the center job after Jeff Faine went down. He gets pushed around too much at guard but holds up better at center. I have no idea why that should be, but I think the tape makes the case. Either way, Zuttah is still under contract and will compete for starting jobs, but he’s not in any real danger of getting cut in 2011.

Larsen impressed the coaches enough in November to give him the starting left guard job over Zuttah. When discussing both guys, Raheem Morris said this:

“You know, Larsen played well,” said Morris, “With Zuttah, we have rotated those guys before even before he went to center. Maybe we can play both, but right now Larsen played really well and we have a tough time just taking him out completely. So we will have to mix both guys in and let them play a little bit or just play Larsen the whole time.”

He was searching for nice things to say about Zuttah while making sure everyone knew Larsen was the guy. As an undrafted rookie, Larsen exceeded everyone’s expectations and he is going to be in the mix for a starting job.

The team is really high on Carter, and even if they weren’t, they probably wouldn’t tell him to his face.

Teams cut him by text.

Coaches are going to give Carter a chance to compete and I see something bigger than the practice squad for him next year.

Hardman filled in at right guard after Joseph was lost and did a fair job, although he didn’t make anyone forget about Joseph. Hardman proved he is worth further evaluation and development, but right now he’s not the long-term answer in case Joseph is lost to free agency. He will compete in camp but I think his role is as a backup at best.

Dile just keeps lingering around, doesn’t he?. If he was going to break through as a potential starter, I think it would have happened by now. While he languished on the practice squad, the Bucs brought in other undrafted free agents and waived players to fill in for injured starters. Dile is purely depth and while he may stick around as camp meat, I can’t see him doing any better than the practice squad in 2011.

Malecki is another swing guy, but he’s just camp meat at this point. He would have to impress the shit out of the coaches in order to be taken seriously as a threat to guys like Zuttah or Larsen.

I don’t think Faine is cut next year, but I think it could be his last for the Bucs. He still hasn’t played a full 16-game season and isn’t showing the same strength off the ball as he used to. And although I don’t think the Bucs’ front office is the kind of group to hold this against a man, Faine’s involvement with the union and his comments during negotiations can’t be endearing him to the suits. But he is the best center on the team right now and that’s enough to keep him entrenched for 2011.

The Bucs could use some real quality depth in the interior line, but they won’t spend a first-round pick to get it. For versatility and experience in the second or third round, Clint Boling (Georgia) is a good choice. He can play any interior line spot, has good feet and is a nasty bastard. He has tons of starts in the SEC and is very durable. He needs to get stronger at the point of attack and he isn’t what you’d call all that “athletic”, but that kind of thing can easily be corrected with time in the weight room and he can play the game.

You want a road-grater that will still be available in the third or fourth round? Check out John Moffitt (Wisconsin). Wisconsin is known for cranking out some quality offensive linemen with attitude and that’s what Moffitt is. He’s old for a Senior (25) and is a great leader with a lot of Big 10 experience, but most of all he’s strong. I know he only did 23 bench reps, but trust me, he pushes defensive tackles back when it counts. He plays high and needs to work on technique, but would be a good developmental guy.

If Joseph does wind up getting snatched by another team, I’d look for the Bucs to make a play at Deuce Lutui. Lutui was drafted in the same class as Joseph and is coming off his rookie contract as well. The Bucs were interested in both guards at the time and, while I think Joseph is the better guard, Lutui is not a huge step down.

Justin Blalock is an intriguing possibility, assuming the Falcons allow him to hit free agency. He started off shaky but has improved steadily since he was drafted in 2007. He can play either guard position and probably hasn’t reached his full potential yet. I’m not sure what he will command in free agency, but I’ll bet it’s less than Joseph and he could certainly beat out Larsen or Zuttah for the left guard spot today.

There, the offense only took a month. Tune in next week when I start on the defense and maybe I can finish before the damn draft.

2 Comments to “Can’t Not Be Feelin’ Dis: Guards And Centers”

Mark S

Mark S (March 03, 2011 at 06:01pm:

Thank you Scott. I thought that 2010, especially with the injuries, was one of the best performances for the OL in a long time. But, backups have a way of fading once they have been on tape and standing pat is never a good idea in the Not-For-Long. The defense needs the most help in 2011, but I hope they pick at least one good prospect for the OL.

jampersand

jampersand (March 04, 2011 at 08:26pm:

I’ve liked Lutui since he was drafted, so I’d like to see him in a Bucs uniform.

I remember how in the 2007 draft, there were two Guard/Tackle ‘tweeners that people though might sneak into the bottom of the 1st round. The first was Aaron Sears, and we all know how that worked out (or do we?). The second was Blalock, who was picked 4 picks later by Atlanta. The guy has talent; I’d like to see him with the Bucs too.

Weird that I’m more interested in these RFA’s than any rookies.

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