What to do, what to do? You have a solid, no, behemoth of a man playing left tackle in Donovan Smith. The dude has been in the NFL for four (4) years. He has started every game for the Bucs since his rookie year. If you’re wondering how many games that is, the math is simple. With absolutely no playoff games to add to the equation, that is sixteen (16) games a season for four (4) season, which equals sixty-four (64) games. It’s not so much the number of games Donovan has played as much as it is his durability, availability, and reliability.
At 6’ 5” and 340 pounds, Mr. Smith has the physical presence of a large bookcase at left tackle. It has been his job since entering the league to protect Jameis Winston’s backside. These two have developed a bond that a right-handed quarterback needs with his left tackle. If a defender slips an inside rush, Jameis knows Donovan’s strengths and weaknesses. This helps Winston decide to shorten up a five/seven step drop, hurry the ball out, pull it down, or scramble out. These are just some of the split-second decisions being made during the line of scrimmage shuffle on any passing play. From a blocking standpoint, Donovan Smith can at least be said to hold his own.
The problem with the bookcase reference is that you’re probably not going to see too many bookcases sprinting downfield to spring blocks for a RB. Smith cedes the line of scrimmage on the initial snap but uses his bulk strength to dig a hold and fend off defenders. He is susceptible to a quick stunt and has been burned by more than a few speed rushers who have quick move.
There is a question as to what Donovan Smith would look like at the guard position. He could surely use that strength of his to hold down the fort at an inside position, but unless he develops a quicker first step, opening holes from the inside would seem like a losing proposition. If holding his own was good enough for left tackle, would Smith even consider a move to the inside? Seems like talk of moving Donovan inside is just more of an admission that his durability, reliability, and availability are strengths a team covets, and the debate should be his value as a left tackle. This seems the right place to look for a winning hand.
It is a mystery at this point as to what the open market might hold for Donovan Smith. With the fifth (5th) overall pick in April’s NFL draft, will the Buccaneers look to maintain consistency at left tackle or decide to draft a new backside dancing partner for their franchise quarterback?