The injuries kept mounting for the Bucs offensive line in the days leading up to Thursday's preseason opener at the Dolphins, and when the game began, four of the team's top six tackles were held out and didn't dress.
Demar Dotson, the starting right tackle, was recovering from knee surgery this spring. Leonard Wester, his replacement, is sidelined with a lower leg injury. Cole Gardner and rookie Cole Boozer, logically next in line, were also held out, pressing second-year pro Brad Seaton in as the first-team (and second-team) right tackle.
"You have to give props to those offensive linemen," said quarterback Ryan Griffin, who threw for 179 yards in the second half, 58 on a final drive to set up the winning field goal. "They played a ton of reps. We had like a (17-play) drive and they were still grinding out there. It was awesome."
Veteran Evan Smith, normally a backup at guard and center, stepped in as the starting right guard, ahead of Caleb Benenoch, who played with the second line despite missing two days of practice this week. Rookie Alex Cappa came in and played the second half at right guard.
"I'm just happy … we were low on the offensive line," said quarterback Jameis Winston, who was protected by some of that second line after relieving starter Ryan Fitzpatrick after two series. "Those guys came out here and were very resilient."
That patchwork second line saw Mike Liedtke, normally a guard, slide out to left tackle, with undrafted rookie Ruben Holcomb at left guard and Adam Gettis at center. The Bucs helped the line but going for quick passes, giving up only one sack in 48 dropbacks between the three quarterbacks.
Video: Bucs rookie guard Ruben Holcomb talks about a patchwork backup offensive line pushing through injuries to play the second half of Thursday’s preseason win. pic.twitter.com/HAtUdHtVnI— Greg Auman (@gregauman) August 10, 2018
"Mike did a great job playing left tackle. We had a lot of guys down, shuffled a lot of guys, but I thought overall we did a good job tonight," Evan Smith said. "They played hard. Coach Hop (offensive line coach George Warhop), Monk (offensive coordinator Todd Monken), we all did a good job of getting those guys up to speed. We had a few guys who had only been here a short while. Plug and play, man. That's the name of the game. I thought they competed their butts off."