The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a Tampa Bay Buccaneers-related topic each week.

This week’s topic: Who is the most valuable offensive player in Tampa Bay heading into the 2018 season?

Scott Reynolds: LT Donovan Smith
The most valuable player on Tampa Bay’s offense is left tackle Donovan Smith. Think about it. It’s not Jameis Winston. The Bucs are going to be without him anyway for the first three games of the year, and while I realize the team’s chances of making the playoffs without Winston aren’t great, there are enough weapons in the passing game and enough of a ground attack to play – and win – without him.

Bucs LT Donovan Smith - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs LT Donovan Smith – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

It’s not Mike Evans, either. Dirk Koetter runs a two-tight end set, and between Cam Brate, O.J. Howard, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries, there are a lot of weapons to throw to in order to move the chains and score touchdowns. The reason why Smith is the most valuable player on the roster is because of the drop off in talent between him and his backup, which will either be Leonard Wester or Cole Gardner – both are extremely unproven. This is the greatest drop off of any position on the offensive depth chart.

The left tackle position is one of the most important in football because it is the blindside pass protector of any right-handed quarterback. Having a good left tackle allows an offensive coordinator the ability to deploy four or five targets into routes for a quarterback to throw to. If a team doesn’t have a good left tackle, a tight end and/or a running back must stay in to help in pass protection against premier pass rushers.

Smith has his detractors among the Bucs fan base, but the truth is he’s an above average tackle that is capable of handling top edge rushers one-on-one almost all of the time. He hasn’t missed a start yet since entering the league as a second-round pick in 2015, and that’s a good thing considering that there is a big drop off in talent and experience behind him. The Bucs can weather the storm at nearly every position – including quarterback with a veteran backup like Ryan Fitzpatrick – with the exception of the left tackle spot.

Mark Cook: QB Jameis Winston
While I can’t say the play of Smith isn’t a crucial part of the team’s success in 2018, the bottom line is this offense will succeed or fail based on how well quarterback Jameis Winston plays this season. As one of two players that touches the ball on every offensive snap, Winston will control how the offense produces in 2018 and is easily the most valuable player on offense.

Saying the drop off after Winston isn’t as significant as the drop off behind Smith isn’t something I agree with. It is very significant. Yes, Ryan Fitzpatrick is much more experienced than Wester or Gardner, but experience doesn’t always equate to success, especially at the quarterback position. I mean, if it did, why would the Bucs have drafted Winston No. 1 overall? And there is a reason Fitzpatrick was available late in free agency last season. That isn’t to say he can’t win games, but you don’t win many Super Bowls without a dynamic quarterback and the Bucs have that in Winston. Yes, he has his issues, and the turnovers have crippled this team, at times. But, can anyone legitimately say they would prefer Fitzpatrick to start the first three games, other than Fitzpatrick himself? Heck, even he might say the team is better off with Winston under center.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

But even more of a reason he is the offense’s most valuable player is the fate of the franchise moving forward. This team and their fans need Winston to succeed. If he doesn’t it will be another house cleaning throughout the building and another start all over. Can the fans stomach another search for a franchise quarterback? While their faith is being tested, there is still that glimmer of hope from Bucs fans that Winston can live up to his first overall draft pick billing. It all falls on Winston and the fate of Jason Licht, Dirk Koetter and the coaching staff will all be affected by the play of Winston. That, to me, makes him more than the most valuable offensive player, but also the most important.

 

Trevor Sikkema: RB Ronald Jones
I think the first two choice on this list are also very important to the Buccaneers’ success in 2018. Certainly Donovan Smith being able to show he is a franchise left tackle and not giving the Bucs front office any worry when offering him a deal next year would be ideal, and of course every NFL team comes and goes with their quarterbacks, so how Jameis Winston performs when he comes back from his suspension will mean a great deal. But, if you ask me, the most important component to weathering Winston’s suspension and beyond in a very tough schedule is the running game. The man that can carry that load (literally) the most is rookie running back Ronald Jones.

Peyton Barber is likely going to start training camp as the team’s No. 1 back and that’s fine. However, Jones need to show the team in camp that he is dynamic enough and ready enough to take on at least a split role right away to start the season. There are going to be no more important games in which the Bucs will have to lean on their rushing attack like they will in their first three contests without Winston. Barber will be helpful, as we saw in 2018, but having a dynamic rushing attack overall will likely come from Jones.

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II - Photo by: Getty Images

Bucs RB Ronald Jones II – Photo by: Getty Images

Jones’ size, speed and “home run” ability make him a weapon that doesn’t exists anywhere else on the Bucs depth chart. While at USC, Jones was a threat to break any run open and take it to the house on any given play. The Bucs need that from him, and they need it quickly. Jones needs to be an integral part of this offense right out of the gate, for that reason. This Bucs rushing attack has to be better than the 27th ranked unit they were last year with just a 3.7 yards per carry average. Though I’m not taking anything away from how Barber can be a compliment as a player in this rushing rotations, the heaviest burden to lift this rushing attack overall will be on the rookie Jones because of what he can do that no one else can.

I know we’ve talked before about being cautious with Jones’ potential fantasy football outlook, as he is ranked quite high right now, but that’s just due to the nature of Barber being there. When it comes to actual football wins, Jones needs to be as involved and as successful as these fantasy sites are predicting. He needs to be the weapon no other back on this team can be.

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About the Author: Mark Cook

Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at [email protected]
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Schwifty9
Schwifty9
3 years ago

Oh, Scott. Scott, Scott, Scotty boy, did you maybe bump your head a little too hard before making your pick for this article?

Ken Grant
Ken Grant
3 years ago

The most valuable player on the offense is literally the worst player in the lineup, Scott? Jesus…

Ja'crispy
Ja'crispy
3 years ago

The most valuable player is Jameis . Without a doubt.

Wausa
Wausa
3 years ago

Clearly Jamies is the most valuable.

BUC-ASS-BOB
BUC-ASS-BOB
3 years ago

How is Ronald Jones going improve running game when Bucs averaged 3.7 yards a carry last year , and at USC Jones only averaged 3.5 yards last year ?????

Schwifty9
Schwifty9
Reply to  BUC-ASS-BOB
3 years ago

Uhh, not sure where you got that bit of data, but Jones averaged 5.9 yards per carry last season. And he averaged 6.1 ypc and 6.5 ypc in 2016 and 2015 respectively.

Horse
Horse
3 years ago

My thought the most valuable person is Dirk Koetter. We already know Smith blocks good enough for Fitzpatrick as he didn’t have any big problems before. The key is for Dirk to call the plays based on the talent he has available for the game that day. It’s as simple as that. Go Bucs

Trevor Sikkema
Reply to  Horse
3 years ago

Outside the box thinking!

Buc 1976
Buc 1976
Reply to  Horse
3 years ago

+1

WiltheBrewer
WiltheBrewer
Reply to  Horse
3 years ago

2

nitey
nitey
3 years ago

Don’t know where you are getting your stats, but he was 5.9 yards per carry last season and 6.1 the year before that. Link: https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/ronald-jones-4.html

surferdudes
3 years ago

We really won’t know who it is until the games start. Week till camp fella’s.

Buc 1976
Buc 1976
3 years ago

I have been quite about Smith up until now. Either his agent or Smith himself proclaimed he will be a top 5 LT??

fredster
fredster
3 years ago

Yeah o have to agree with others here Smith is not a great LT at all. If he was a pro bowler maybe you could say that Scott. Have to really disagree. With his penalties etc., I just seriously doubt the drop off to his back up would be that much more severe than rest of O line. Winston (WB) is the key to Bucs success or not.

Honey Bear
Honey Bear
3 years ago

Football is a team sport. A great team can win with an average QB. Nick Foles won the Super Bowl last year. This team can win with Fitzpatrick this year and with the QB it signs or drafts next year. We have the talent, we just need the coaching. Winston is a bad decision machine, both on the field (throwing into coverage, fumble city, eating W’s), and off the field (too long to list). This team does not need Winston, and it does not need to start over. We will be better off without him if we just accept that… Read more »

plopes808
plopes808
3 years ago

First off, I think you guys are being too harsh on Scott here. He didn’t say D Smith was the best player on offense but that his performance would be the most valuable. If he can live up to that “top T” billing that’s been thrown around, the team will benefit greatly from it. I can see the points of all 3 guys on this article. I tend to lean more toward Trev’s take though as the running game is the biggest missing piece from last year. Improving there will be key to everything else, including the defensive side and… Read more »

scubog
scubog
3 years ago

You know, I read comments critical of Donovan Smith and wonder if those folks ever watched much of his play ; or if, out of the 60 plus examples per game, only focus on the 1 or 2 poor ones. Instead of echoing what someone else says; go to the actual game sometime and watch the O-line play instead of following the ball. Focus on #76 and what you’ll likely see is him doing a pretty decent job pass protecting 90% of the time against the best DE’s in the business. You’ll also see the LG struggle, the QB holding… Read more »

owlykat
owlykat
3 years ago

Mark wrote this article; don’t lay the blame on Scott. I am sorry Mark and Scubog, but PFF found D. Smith was responsible for 42 pressures on our QB last year. If Jameis wasn’t so good at escaping such pressures D. Smith would have given up way too many sacks to keep him at LT. On top of that you should have noticed those many occasions where D. Smith was holding DEs that beat him to avoid having over 50 pressures, which in some cases resulted in penalties for holding that stopped our drives. And I have watched D. Smith… Read more »