ORLANDO — The Bucs have made plenty of changes to the offensive line the past few weeks, but have yet to make a change at left guard.
They don’t think they’ll have to.
The Bucs are growing confident LG Carl Nicks will return to action this year after being sidelined much of the past two seasons with a foot injury and a MRSA staph infection.
“He’s been rehabbing and things look promising, so we are crossing our fingers and hoping for the best,’’ Bucs general manager Jason Licht said Tuesday.
Nicks signed a five-year, $47.5 million free-agent contract with the Bucs in 2012, but has played in only nine games since. A left foot injury ended Nicks’ 2012 season after seven games and a MRSA infection on the same foot ended his 2013 season after just two games.
The Bucs are hopeful Nicks will be back on the field when their 2014 offseason workout program begins in April.
“We’re gathering all the information we have with the doctors that we’ve sent him to, and we’re hoping for that,’’ Licht said. “We’ll see.’’
Changing of the guard
Nicks is attempting to return to a line that will look drastically different than the one he played on a year ago.
The Bucs have a new left tackle in Anthony Collins, a new center in Evan Dietrich-Smith and eventually will have a new right guard to replace Davin Joseph, who was recently released.
The Bucs have yet to settle on a starter at right guard, and there is a chance he is not even on the roster yet.
“We’re going to give everybody that’s on the roster right now a chance to win that job,” Licht said, “but we still have the draft coming up, and there’s still a possibility of adding someone (in free agency).”
The top candidates on the roster are Jamon Meredith, who played 33 snaps over three games at right guard last year, and Oneil Cousins, who started four games at that spot for the Browns in 2013.
The addition of free agent CBs Alterraun Verner and Mike Jenkins means second-year CB Johnthan Banks will have to fight to keep his starting job. He could lose the fight and, essentially, still be a starter.
How so? The advent of the passing game forces defenses to frequently play three cornerbacks, so Licht envisions several scenarios in which Verner, Jenkins and Banks start together.
“The amount of time that you play nickel, it’s upwards of 60 percent or more at times,” Licht said, “So, those guys, all three of our corners, they’re all considered starters in our book.”
Movin’ on up
Neither Cousins nor Collins has been a starter for a full, 16-game season, but that doesn’t concern Licht or coach Lovie Smith.
“If you see a guy who is able to do something well in a limited amount of plays, there’s cause for you to believe he can do it as a full-time player,’’ Smith said. “So, I’m comfortable they can make that jump.”