You hear so many talking heads say, “The best ability is availability.” In four years since being drafted out of Penn State in the second round (#34 overall), Donovan Smith has been very available. Coming into 2018, not only has Smith played all 48 games, but he’s started in them. An injury in late August seemed like it could threaten that streak, but Donovan made it back and played in week one.
There was a time when left tackle, specifically for a team with a right-handed quarterback, was the position. Although still very important these days, it takes specialists all across the line to work together as a unit to open holes, protect the QB, and set the tempo. Even with Donovan Smith’s iron man durability, it doesn’t seem like a slam dunk that he will be back next year.
Showing improvement up until this season, Smith has improved nearly five (5) points a year on the Pro Football Focus grading scale for offensive linemen. The problem is his run blocking is not effective, as evidenced by the Buccaneer running game, which rarely got off to a start this 2018 campaign. At 6’6” and 338 pounds, Smith has also demonstrated sluggish feet at times, which has led to some problems with pass protection, specifically with penalties.
Over the next three (3) weeks, as Donovan Smith plays out his rookie contract, his agent has no doubt already contacted the Buccaneers to let them know that he will be looking for somewhere between 6-10 million a season in 2019. Will the Buccaneers still employ a pass-heavy offensive scheme in 2019? Was there a plan for drafting a 2nd round RB out of USC to complement a workhorse from Auburn in a future running attack? Will I be able to talk my wife into letting me get my season tickets back for next year? These are all questions that need to be answered. One thing, though, is for sure: if #76 isn’t at left tackle for the Buccaneers in 2019, he will be available to some team.