Tampa Bay Bucs fans are accustomed to being disappointed. With Carl Nicks parting ways with Tampa Bay in what appeared to be a mutually dispassionate manner, both sides seem ready to move on without a trace of fanfare that came with his free agent signing from New Orleans on March 2012. A lot of reasonably high expectations came with Nicks’ arrival. However, with Nicks’ prolonged struggling with his toe injury and MRSA infection, the Bucs had to adjust playing without him the last two seasons. Not having a healthy, All Pro level Nicks at starting left guard really hurts the Bucs because there isn’t an equivalent replacement for him currently on the roster. Without Nicks, the guard position is now thin with proven experience. It’s a shame that Nicks’ once brilliant career was cut short by injury. The NFL Gods have not looked favorably on Nicks the last two years. However, there’s no need to panic. Not yet.
Jamon Meredith is the likely replacement for Nicks. Meredith has started 20 games for the Bucs the last two seasons at guard. The cupboard is not exactly bare. The Bucs have also been practicing Oniel Cousins, at right guard. Cousins, a free agent signing earlier this year, has played in 59 NFL games with 9 starts, none with the Bucs. Other players getting a serious look with the first team are rookie Kadeem Edwards and second year prospect Patrick Omameh. The next few weeks of training camp and preseason games will give Lovie Smith and his assistant coaches ample opportunities to evaluate what they have in the interior line. Whoever practices at the guard position will be severely tested given the quality of the Bucs defensive lineman. It’s better that happens during training camp and preseason then to find out in the regular season how good the guards on your roster really are. The Bucs may also look to shore up depth through the waivers of guards cut from other teams.
The reason this writer is not panicking. At least not yet, is because this new Buccaneer coaching staff is comprised of winners and successful coaches at the NFL level. Lovie Smith, one of the most respected coaches in the NFL, has assembled an excellent coaching staff. Let’s see what they develop with the guards on the current Bucs roster. We just might be pleasantly surprised.