Bucs LT Donovan Smith – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Throughout the offseason, there was plenty of talk about what would and wouldn’t be done with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offensive line going into 2017.
There was talk about who was going to be brought back, what kind of changes some of the depth players would be making, and even if there was going to be a change at the top with some of the starters after a down year in 2016.
PewterReport.com learned pretty early on in the offseason that this Bucs team just wasn’t going to do much in terms of replacing their top offensive linemen, especially their left and right tackles, Donovan Smith and Demar Dotson.
That came to be true.
On Wednesday, at One Buc Place, the strength of that argument got even stronger as Buccaneers offensive line coach, George Warhop, said his team’s left tackle, Smith, could be one of the best tackles in the entire NFL.
“He is an unbelievable talent,” Warhop said. “When I say he’s unbelievable I think he literally can be one of the top two or three tackles in the league.”
Smith was one of the most penalized players in the league last year, and certainly had his struggles in his second year as a pro. But, in the defense of his young left tackle, Warhop said the improvements for Smith came quick as the year went on, and that Smith is as comfortable as he’s seen him going into year three.
“I’m going to say this, if you look at Donovan last year, the first thing he has to improve on is just being consistent,” Warhop said. “I love the guy. I think he’s got strength, he’s got quickness, he’s got athleticism. I think through the early part of last year he just wasn’t consistent. If you watch him in the second half of the season, he played a lot more consistent.”
The question was then brought up whether or not Warhop had seen or read any of the mock drafts this offseason that had the Buccaneers taking an offensive lineman early on in the 2017 NFL Draft, some as early as No. 19 overall. Warhop laughed.
“I didn’t get that,” Warhop said. “I saw that, and I was like, ‘Really? They must know something I don’t.”
Speaking of the draft, Warhop was asked about interior offensive lineman, Ali Marpet, and the plan to move him to center this season. Warhop said that didn’t come as a surprise for anyone since in the building. Since the team drafted Marpet, that move has actually been part of his plan and development.
Bucs RG Ali Marpet – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“[The move to center] was part of [Marpet’s]the evaluation process,” Warhop said. “When we thought about drafting Ali, we thought that he would be a very good center at some point. From day one since he’s been here he’s been snapping. So that [transition] process started two years ago. To me, it was just a natural progression for him to move to center. It was just a matter of when.”
Warhop said that kind of stuff isn’t uncommon. He noted that, unless you are a proven starter or that you’re pick very high in the draft, versatility is a must; there just aren’t enough spots on the roster for depth players to only be able to play one position. He said that starts with how they draft.
“When we draft guys, I always look at guys who can play multiple positions,” Warhops said. “Just for our survival, if you’re not a starter, you have to be able to play multiple positions. And that gives [these guys] a chance to make a team and stick in the league. until you become a starter at one position, you have to have the ability to play multiple positions.”
Warhop noted that players like Kevin Pamphile and Caleb Benenoch can play all three positions on the offensive line – though Pamphile is more of the OT-OG hybrid where Benenoch is the C-OG mix.
Warhops’ time with the media confirmed and even strengthened the train of thought we’ve had about this team’s gameplan for the offensive line this offseason. First, they are very confident in the starters they have, and that hasn’t changed. Second, we should expect any offensive lineman this team drafts or brings in for depth to be versatile enough to line up anywhere.
Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: [email protected]
I like Smith but he is going to have to play a hell of a lot better to come close to a top 2 or 3 tackle in the league. He definitely looked to be in the bottom half of the league last year.
Come close to being*
Good stuff, Trevor. On another note, any news on rookie contract signings ?
This is the best I could find. Tweets by Greg Auman/Tampa Bay Times.
Greg AumanVerified account @gregauman May 16
There are 14 NFL teams that have already signed five or more of their draft picks. A little over half of total draft picks now signed.
Greg AumanVerified account @gregauman May 16
By my count, Bucs are one of five NFL teams who have yet to sign a single draft pick, along with Rams, Vikings, Saints and Raiders.
Don’t fret over this or take it as though something is wrong. It can vary – Winston signed his contract on May 3, 2015. I recall lowly 7th rounder S Cody Grimm didn’t sign until July 29th in the 2010 draft. !st round pick DT Gerald McCoy signed two days later on the 31st to finish the draft.
Would be nice to have everybody signed, but don’t be concerned until late June. Start to freak out the week before training camp. lol. I’m pretty sure they will all be in the house in a couple of weeks. Go Bucs!
On the plus side if it’s a mental rep and focus thing it should be fixable if it’s about desire and ‘want to’ that usually isn’t fixable, except for contract years.
PR has staunchly defended him. But in addition to the services rating him near the bottom of the league, you can tell from Warhop’s comments that Smith has been an underachiever so far and this year it’s put up or either move to RT or inside.
I don’t see it in him but Inhope I’m wrong or we’ll need to draft another LT next year, when everyone else will be looking to draft OL as well.
Well, the coches know Donovan Smith better than we fans do – and they are betting their livelihood on his performance. Also, I think too many fans and commenters put way too much stock in the online analytics shops (otherwise known as snake oil salesmen) and their poor ratings of Smith.
As always, the bottom line is the bottom line … for OTs that’s measured in quarterback hits, hurries and sacks allowed from his side of the center, and in the effectiveness of our running backs on his side. And also the overall effectiveness of the O-line when he’s on the field compared to when he’s on the sideline.
Bunch of rah rah talk. Coaches might know him better but give me a break. He was rated second to last in 2016. An improvement to just being middle of pack would be good goal and cutting the damn penalties at least in half! Lol.
Rated by whom? I really don’t give a rat’s ass about the opinion of national media yackers and clueless wannabe analysts who get paid no matter what garbage they put out. Considering that the current coaches delivered the first winning season here since 2010, they have earned the benefit of any doubt.
Again, the people responsible for the team’s performance are the best judges of the individual players they coach. If they are wrong, they pay with their jobs.
He needs to improve or the Kenyatta Walker talk will start.
This is Smith’s 3rd year. If he doesn’t play like at least a top 15 left tackle this year it probably will never happen. You gotta love Warhop’s optimism, but Donovan Smith isn’t even top 2 or 3 in our division right now. That is the problem with low motor players. They rarely develop a high motor. For that reason it is a massive longshot for him to ever develop into a top LT.
I would be happy if he becomes a top 15 OT. NFL average would be okay as well but kind of lukewarm to that possibility.
With our best OL changing position to C, one G coming back from a year off and a back injury, the other playing poorly last ye in his first real game experience, one T at/approaching his expiration date and the other putting up 2 years of uninspiring tape, every OL spot is an open question heading into the first game of the season.
You guys really slay me.
Too subscribe to some half ass PFF report nd think you are scouts or coaches overnight.
As Licht noted in one of his previous interviews on PR, he found it mysterious how PFF so called evaluators were able to grade out a player overnight when it took his staff of half wits a week to go through film and grade out his players.
No one even knows who grades these players out.
I watch a lot of film of the Bucs games from NFL rewind and if he was half as bad as some of you guys make him out to be, I would be calling for his head, too.
But after watching film from last year, it was my very amateurish opinion that it was Kevin Pampille who was the weak link on the left side of the line, not Smith.
Couldn’t agree more Dr.D. I don’t need to base my opinions on some glorified telephone solicitor’s ranking at these analysis web sites. I’ve been watching this team FROM THE STANDS for 40+ years and I can assure these folks that Donovan Smith, other than the penalties that declined over the course of his SECOND SEASON, is doing a good job. The problem these folks fail to see is Jameis holding the ball and running around trying to make a play because Mike Evans is being blanketed and the other targets can’t get separation fast enough. Couple that with a running back committee that in no way is viewed as much of a threat, and you have an entire OL unit that looks far more ineffective than it really is. These critics should go to the game live where they can see the entirety of the play and not just what is shown on TV. They might learn something.
Then again, it might just be that here in Bucville, there is always a whipping boy who is chosen more from perception than reality.
Yup Scubog and drd.
Also, offensive linemen take several years to develop their NFL skills, just like most other position groups. Smith was only a second year player last season.
I seem to recall a lot of self-annointed experts being way down on Mike Evans during and right after his second season in the league, mainly for his dropped passes (half of which half his season total occured in a single, rain drenched game in which he also got over 160 receiving yards, about 100 more than the second leading receiver that game). Then voila, in his third season of play most everybody in the league announted Evans as either the best or second best WR in the NFL.
If you want to talk about unrealistic expectations in life, then too many Bucs fans are right up there with the highest (worst) in the league!
Rated by me Naples, and his crappy play and almost most penalties in league. Your a know it all bro. You want to argue everything I comment here. Whatever.
I’m sure he will be top 2 or 3 top LT in no time. How crazy to think otherwise. Lol.
I personally never like it when they change sides on an OT. Seems to be easier for a Guard, but harder for a Tackle. I guess because as a G, you are inside and keep more plays in front of you, but as an OT, you have to change everything and all of your techniques are backwards and you are using the opposite side of your body for everything. On one side, your kick-step is with your right foot, on the other, it is the left foot. On one side, you use your right arm to push off and clear the DE from the path to the QB, but on the other side, it is your left arm. And so on. You get the picture. Give the kid some time, either he will improve, or they can move him back to the right side, or move him in to G if that’s possible.
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