“As Good As He Wants To Be”

August 30th, 2017

Ira Kaufman is the most beloved, revered and esteemed Buccaneers columnist in town. He has hung his hat at JoeBucsFan.com world headquarters since July 2016. Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ira busts out columns here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire Tuesdays and Thursdays.

BY IRA KAUFMAN

Myles Garrett is going to make a lot of left tackles look bad this season. Donovan Smith ranks as Exhibit A.

The first overall pick in the 2017 draft was very impressive in Cleveland’s preseason victory, pressuring Jameis Winston repeatedly off the right edge.

And while the Browns have much to look forward to enjoying Garrett’s ascension, Buc fans are left wondering which Smith will show up in the season opener at Miami.

Everyone within the walls at One Buc Place seems to agree that Smith has a lot of talent. He’s been the most durable Tampa Bay player the past two years, taking every snap since he was selected in the second round to protect Winston’s blind side.

“Donovan has a lot of upside,” says Clinton McDonald. “He has taken on some of the best rushers in this league and he has held his own.”

When Dirk Koetter looks at Smith, he relishes what lies down the road.

“He comes to work every day and tries to get better,” Koetter said. “Donovan is physically gifted, and when he is able to focus for the whole 64-play game, he’s going to be one of the top left tackles in the league.”

You wouldn’t know it by Smith’s performance Saturday night. On a humid evening, Garrett kept lining up outside Smith’s left shoulder and applying additional heat.

On one play, Garrett fought past Smith, Adam Humphries and Jacquizz Rodgers to hound Winston.

“He’s a big guy who can bend, and he’s got speed, too,” Smith said. “Garrett’s going to be a good player.”

Targeted

All head coaches have a way of getting their message across when it comes to public player evaluations. When Lovie Smith said a guy “looked “okay,” that was code for he had a bad game.

Check out Koetter’s report card on pass protection against the Browns.

“We had some individual breakdowns,” he said. “I thought Evan Smith did a really nice job filling in at left guard and has had a real consistent preseason. Leonard Wester got his first start, that was great experience for him.

“Ali at center, you can definitely feel how he makes us more solid in the middle. But then, there’s a learning curve. He had a couple of snaps that were a little bit high, a little tough to handle. And Donovan did not play as well as he’s capable of. But it’s a work in progress.”

The key words you hear from Smith’s coaches are “focus” and “consistency.” Those are typical goals for any young player manning a high-stress position.

The good news? You don’t hear Smith’s name very often during a Bucs broadcast — and that’s a beautiful thing from a Tampa Bay perspective.

Smith’s Call

If Mike Evans isn’t mentioned, that means he wasn’t a factor. For offensive linemen, silence is golden.

“If you don’t hear my name, it’s all good,” Smith says. “This was a good camp for me and I got a lot of good work in. My goal is to stay consistent, stacking games and being the best me I can be. I have high expectations for myself. People in the building have those same expectations for me, and I know that.”

Winston is surrounded by all these weapons, but it won’t matter much if the Bucs are beaten up in the trenches. Let’s see how this group fares in the protection racket.

“As with any team, the offensive line is the heart and soul,” Smith says. “There’s five of us who have to work as one, and our room is the best I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”

On a rainy night in a game that didn’t count in the standings, a dynamic rookie showed Donovan Smith he isn’t there yet. Smith has been solid for the most part, but the Bucs are convinced he can be elite.

“Donovan Smith,” says McDonald, “can be as good as he wants to be.”

25 Responses to ““As Good As He Wants To Be””

  1. MadMax Says:

    OJ Howard can handle him….so next time get Smith some help from Howard.

  2. darin Says:

    My thoughts exactly about that game Ira. Gota tip your cap to garrett. Great athlete n pass rusher. Donovan will have some bad plays its that simple. He is facing one of the best 32 defensive ends in the world every game. Not gona win em all. He has talent so just give 100 percent every play big boy. He is gona be fine. Not sure why so much stock is put into preseason anyway. Some people cant remember all the times the bucs looked great in the preseason then followed that up with 2-14 i guess. None of it matters come sept 10th. Well none of it except the fact dam near all the players will be healthy! Go Bucs

  3. Defense Rules Says:

    @Ira … “On one play, Garrett fought past Smith, Adam Humphries and Jacquizz Rodgers to hound Winston.” Missed that one apparently Ira, but any time a single DE makes 3 defenders account for him I have to think ‘Wow, wish the Bucs had one of those.’ And yes, Myles Garrett will be a special player if he stays healthy.

  4. I'm tired and 87 is right Says:

    Haden is available! We must get him he was just cut!! Do it Bucs!

  5. NOSBOS Says:

    [email protected]$!,they actually cut haden…

  6. Killian Fischer Says:

    HADEN!! Go get him!

  7. tnew Says:

    Perspective is funny. One sees a guy hounding the QB, another sees a guy not getting there. I had to look up that play because I iso’d a bit on Donovan Smith’s play, and I missed that one. If you want to look it up, it is the one immediately after Humphreys was hurt. The one that we are all hoping he got alligator arms because he was hurt and not making a professional decision, at any case. On the play Humphreys, lunges but totally wiffs on a chip, but succeeds in getting in Smith’s way. Smith looks bad here, is out of balance and pretty much falls down. He probably shoundn’t be planning on a chip block from Humphreys doing much. Jacquizz Rodgers, all 5’6″ of him does a very good job in holding up Garrett, he never “fought thru” any of them. If Winston holds the ball another second then yes, Rodgers probably looses then but Winston has time (over 3 seconds) to double hitch and throws the ball away on 3rd and 14 without gettting touched. Good read by Winston as there was tight coverage, only two receivers were out in the pattern and the Browns only rushed 4. I love me some Ira buy saying he was “hounded” on that play is a bit of creative editing. The throw wasn’t rushed, if anything it was late.

    Look Garrett is good. He was the number 1 overall pick for a reason, but no need to blow up his play in this game.

  8. tnew Says:

    Haden won’t clear waivers to our slot.

  9. tnew Says:

    I just hope Haden is grabbed before the Carolina slot.

  10. tnew Says:

    I may have to back off of my original waiver statement he has 2 years @11.5 mil left. Not amazingly huge but that will limit some teams. Not sure that the Bucs want him at that.

  11. tnew Says:

    Ok.. I’m feeling old today. He’s been in the league 6 years. Vested veteran.. Please disregard all of my waiver nonsense

  12. MadMax Says:

    Na, pass on Haden at that price….for half, eh maybe.

  13. Dusthty Rhothdes Says:

    if you can get him cheaper than the salary

  14. Baz Says:

    As good as Myles Garrett looked last game, don’t forget he gets to go against one of the top 3 LT’s in the game in Joe Thomas every day at practice. In addition, he also has had private tutoring from Bruce Smith, the only man with 200 sacks in NFL history and an incredible pass rusher in his day.

    They’re setting Garrett up for success, and he’s got the tools to make it happen. Wonder if Paul Gruber could share a few insights with Donovan? I love Smith, but any advice from a former great player (Pro Bowler? should’ve been, not sure he made it) couldn’t hurt.

  15. vince picolo Says:

    Haden isn’t coming here. We have Hargreaves and Grimes. Nobody has a 3rd corner at that price.

  16. Capt.Tim Says:

    How many sacks did Garrett get?
    Garrett does look like he will be a monster very soon.

    Ira, you were probably so enamored with Garrett- because you never get to see a “Pass Rushing Defensive end” in this vicinity. Apparently in Tampa, they are rarer than unicorns.

  17. DB55 Says:

    If Ira was paying attention he’d write about the RT turnstile or Sweezy missing blocks and getting flags. What’s the issue with smith why try to make him the scape goat? Lg,rg.,RT those are the issues on the line and they’re gonna get Jameis killed.

    Ps on one of the sacks Jameis needed to step up into the pocket but didn’t n got sacked. Pretty sure it’s the same play Ira is talking about.

  18. Pickgrin Says:

    “Donovan did not play as well as he’s capable of. But it’s a work in progress.”

    Has this not been the type of thing we’ve heard and seen pretty consistently for the last 2 1/2 years regarding D. Smith?

    How often do you think that was said about Joe Thomas in his second or 3rd year? Kenyatta Walker? – Yes Joe Thomas? NO

    Is that a fair comparison? Of course not. Joe Thomas is the best LT of his generation. A pillar of greatness and consistency. Never missed a game in 10 years – nor a Pro Bowl. 9 time All Pro (7X 1st team).

    You know what? Jameis Winston deserves to have a player like that protecting his blind side for the next 10+ years. Or at least a close semblance.

    The thing is – great Left Tackles are very hard to come by and very expensive. Totally understandable that its not easy to improve that position when you’ve already got a pretty damn good team and have some (less than going all out) investments in development.

    If I was the Bucs GM – I’d be going all out and willing to invest major resources (like a 1st rd pick+) trying to find the next Joe Thomas while half of the rest of the league is focused on doing the same thing in trying to find the next Jameis Winston.

    He’s had 2 shots at high level OT talent already. Conklin was gettable if Licht was committed to getting the best OT he possibly could for Jameis. And Tunsil was there for the taking just by writing his name down.

    Did we have other needs? Sure. Quite a few. But what’s more important than providing a player like Jameis Winston with the best protection you possibly can?

    An “adequate” Oline is not good enough for a QB like Winston. And LT is the most important position on that line.

    Just Sayin….

  19. DB55 Says:

    Pick

    Preach! Funny thing I’ve been harping on the oline for two months now but as you already know I have no idea what I’m talking about.

    Joe assured us over and over that the line was good. HA! Jameis out there getting beat up, so much so he started talking 10 step drops in the 3rd and it still didn’t help.

    And Licht is a former oline man? Could have fooled me. But yea Pickgrin get a Aaron Donald or Joe Thomas type and move d smith to RT. Pamp at rg and I guess Sweezy at lg although he hasn’t impressed this offseason. But then again wtf do I know??!?!

  20. Bucnjim Says:

    Was not able to watch the game closely. Did the Browns blitz a lot or were they able to get pressure just with the four down lineman? Seems like they were in the back field on most plays that I was able to see.

  21. BigMacAttack Says:

    You have to build a productive run game to keep a strong pass rush at bay. Screen passes will work too especially with good blocking receivers and tight ends. It’s all about the right play call at the right time. This falls on Koetter and Jameis running it instead of calling an audible at the wrong time. Jameis does this too much at times and he needs to trust in Dirk and the process.

  22. Bucsfanman Says:

    DB55 and Pickgrin, don’t you guys know that all our protection woes and lack of production in the running game can only be attributed to Doug Martin?! (sarcasm!)
    We are still a “work in progress” in the trenches.
    In review: The offensive line is struggling and the defensive line cannot get to the QB.
    What we are all forgetting is that, really, the guys are holding back. Come Miami, we’ll be ‘beasting’!!!
    …………Hopefully!

  23. DB55 Says:

    Bucsfan

    Of course they are, don’t be ridiculous. Suh is gonna be on his back all game. He won’t even need to be doubled or tripled unlike our very own superhero Super Icecream Man. …… hopefully.

  24. Capt.Tim Says:

    Another Genius post by the Clueless DB55( you dont deserve that title). So-an Offensive line, missing two starters, in a pouring rainstorm, in a meaningless Preseason game- didnt look sharp??

    Lets storm OneBuc place! Its obviously the end of the world
    And despite the Joes endless prodding, to keep the Donovan Smith smear campaign going( similar to the McCoy campaign, Buc Coaches know that Donovan Smith will be an All Pro soon. He is very strong and agile. Hes done a good job so far- and hes only getting better

  25. Rod Munch Says:

    Smith has gotten a lot of abuse since he was drafted – most of the abuse has been underserved in my opinion, but just saying he didn’t have a good night is very in this situation. I think he’ll be fine – he’ll do well against lower tiered talent and he’ll be hit or miss against top tier talent – unless you yourself are a top tier player that’s just the way it goes. Smith’s knock coming out of college was that he was lazy and so far that doesn’t seem to be an issue in the least, so he’s playing up to his ability – he just has to keep playing and keep working and he’ll continue to improve.