In a recent article in the Tampa Bay Times, it was stated that the Buccaneers believe Donovan Smith will become a premier offensive left tackle, covering the most important position on the line, Jameis Winston’s blind side. In fact, when asked about Smith’s progress, offensive line coach George Warhop noted that he believes Donovan could be “one of the top two or three tackles in the league.” Although that’s quite a statement, and I’m sure many around the league would disagree, allow me to elaborate on the progress I believe Warhop sees in Smith.
First and foremost, this off-season, Smith worked on getting his body in peak shape and that was quite evident when he showed up to these OTA’s. Donovan lost weight, but not mass, having become slimmer and quicker, yet, stronger. This is only going to help him get to his blocking assignments better and faster than most. However, in my opinion, the best quality about Smith is his football I.Q. Warhop, as well as coach Koetter, have both praised the one quality that every great player in the making must have, coachability. Yes, I made up a new word, but it works right? The kid is a classroom geek. He is always trying to learn and get better and is absorbing what he is being taught.
Tampa Bay drafted Smith early in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Donovan started all 16 but was very inconsistent for most of the season. His second season in the league was a little better, but what really impressed was how well he progressed as the season went along.
The key to playing on the offensive line is consistency. A consistently mediocre offensive lineman in many facets is a safer option than one that you’re not sure what to expect from. At least the mediocre lineman won’t give up a game defining play. A hot and cold lineman may very well block his butt off one play, then allow your quarterback to get crushed the next. This is where Smith has to show the greatest improvement. In his first 2 years in the league, having played in all 32 games, he allowed over 110 quarterback pressures. Now it doesn’t take a genius to realize those numbers aren’t going to get you too far in this league. In fact, PFF rates Smith the 69th best tackle in the league, with a paltry score of 38.7 in pass blocking, and a slightly more efficient 63.9 in run blocking.
If Donovan, being slimmer and quicker, can become a more consistent player not just game to game, but play to play, then we will all be patting offensive line coach George Warhop and head coach Dirk Koetter on the backs for sticking by him. This season is a “make or break” year for Donovan Smith, let’s just all hope it makes him into one of the top linemen in the league, rather than break him into a perennial backup. I guess only time will tell.
Edited by : Harmeet Kapur