The Bucs have a good news and bad news situation when it comes to their offensive tackles ahead of Sunday’s game in Arizona. The good news is that right tackle Tristan Wirfs will most likely be available to play for the first time since he injured his ankle in overtime against the Browns three weeks ago. The bad news is that a foot injury will leave them without left tackle Donovan Smith.
This puts Tampa Bay in a precarious position. Everyone will of course be very happy with those Wirfs just mentioned to his second career Pro Bowl, is back in the lineup. Not only is he the best tackle on the Bucs, he’s arguably the best tackle in football. But what are they doing on the left side of the line?
When Wirfs was out, Josh Wells stepped in with the right tackle and performed better than most expected. Asking him to just switch to the other side immediately isn’t as easy as it sounds. When Smith missed three plays last week, Brandon Walton filled in. It was also Walton who started for Smith when he was out for weeks 2 and 3, but that was because Wells also got injured in week 2 which kept him out.
Walton was solid against the Saints in Week 2, but didn’t look so great the following week as the Bucs lost to the Packers.
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So, where does that leave the Bucs? Bowles replied that Friday, saying Wells will get the nomination, but both players have been practicing there this week in anticipation.
“We put him to work there,” Bowles said of Wells. “We worked Walton there too, just to be prepared.”
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Wells is an eight-year veteran and has played his last four seasons with the Bucs. He played in 10 games this season, starting six of them with four games as starting equipment. The other two came into his other role in the Bucs’ offense as a swing tackle.
He’s played at least one snap in every game he’s been available for, lining up as an extra blocker for the line. Its ability to line up comfortably on either side really helps the Bucs in this situation.
“He certainly showed his worth there,” said Bowles. “That’s what the swing tackle does. You don’t want to see much of it, but he stepped in and did a great job.
Tampa Bay travels to Arizona this weekend for their Christmas night game. It’s a huge opportunity for the Bucs maintain their lead about the Panthers, Saints and Falcons in the NFC South, especially with the Panthers playing against a tough opponent in the resurgent Detroit Lions.
Smith hasn’t missed many games in his career, but the Bucs will rely on Wells to pick up where he left off as backup to start. This time it just goes from the right side to the left side.
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