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.
Bucs LT Donovan Smith – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
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@example.com
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