Getting Better

January 20th, 2018


Joe is convinced the biggest disconnect between folks who work in the NFL for a living and paying customers — outside of the mystery of why Doug Martin was employed in 2017 much less getting 11 starts — is how those two parties view offensive lines.

Fans seem to want five pancake blocks on each and every play, and if a running back doesn’t have a five-yard wide hole to run through, the offensive line is total garbage and all five linemen must be replaced immediately.

NFL folks look at how college spread offenses have ruined offensive linemen and acknowledge there is a crisis in the NFL when it comes to finding decent linemen much less developing them.

In other words, there is a new normal for blocking in the NFL and fans have yet to — and maybe never will — accept that.

That brings Joe to left tackle Donovan Smith. Is he Tony Boselli or Anthony Muñoz? Hell no, but who is? Joe sees a guy that’s a decent pass blocker and at times can be a road grader for the running game.

Fans see a turnstile.

NFL folks, well, Joe was told not long ago that in a poll of NFL types, Smith graded out much, much, much better than fans see or want to see. Again, the new normal when it comes to NFL offensive linemen.

NFL film junkie Doug Farrar of Bleacher Report believes Smith is improving, but Farrar wants to see more because he is teased by Smith’s talent, ranking Smith No. 25 for left tackles.

Smith showed dominant flashes but rarely put it together on consecutive plays. There were times when he looked like he could one of the best in the league—then two plays later, one wonders where it went. I have been hard on Donovan Smith in the past because I wanted more out of him, but his 2017 film shows he is working on his consistency.

The thing that the Bucs like most about Smith? He always answers the bell. Smith has only missed one half of football in his three NFL seasons. For an offensive lineman, that’s incredible durability.

As Bill Parcells famously said, your best ability is availability.

30 Responses to “Getting Better”

  1. LifeOfABucFan Says:

    I don’t see him as a turnstile at all..but someone who plays with heart and soul and doesn’t bail out when his thumb hurts..doesn’t call in sick like half my staff on a daily basis..

    I’m #TeamDonovan !

  2. LakeLand Says:

    I didn’t have a problem with the Bucs O-Line this season. I had a problem with the playcalling that was creating problems for the O-Line. Football Outsiders has them ranked 16th in both pass protection and run-blocking.

  3. Pickgrin Says:

    25th best LT in the NFL sounds about right. If he improves he might even get to 20th best one day.

    The question I keep asking though is – Doesn’t Jameis Winston – the only true franchise QB in Buccaneer history deserve a top 10 LT protecting his blindside?

    If we get an opportunity to upgrade – we need to make it happen. That’s all I’m sayin. Smith may not like the idea – but I’m pretty sure he would make a fine RT.

  4. LakeLand Says:

    This stat sheet shows the Bucs are 31st in 2nd Level Yards. And also 31st in Open Field Yards. That’s more on the RBs than the O-Line. Also the Bucs offense was at the top in IAY ( Average Intended Air Yardage). That put more pressure on the O-Line.

  5. Joe Says:

    I didn’t have a problem with the Bucs O-Line this season.

    A rare item we agree on.

    No, the Bucs didn’t have the best offensive line. It wasn’t the worst either.

    Much bigger holes on the roster. The Bucs didn’t lose games because of the offensive line.

  6. Joe Says:

    Smith may not like the idea – but I’m pretty sure he would make a fine RT.

    Smith said he cannot play right tackle. As in physically cannot play right tackle. Told Joe this last year and explained in detail.

  7. Joe Says:

    This stat sheet shows the Bucs are 31st in 2nd Level Yards. And also 31st in Open Field Yards. That’s more on the RBs than the O-Line.


  8. James Walker Says:

    In the next 2 years Smith will be a dominate player.

  9. LakeLand Says:

    I just read his grades at Bleacher Report. He has Top-15 Pass Protection grade. His Agility and Run-Blocking is his weakness.

  10. LakeLand Says:

    There’s something about the Bucs, it’s not talent. It maybe coaching or something similar. I counted 18 former Bucs from the 2013 roster that played on playoff teams ( After leaving the Bucs). At least 10 of them were starters. There were 4 Offensive Linemen from the 2013 that went on to start for playoff teams.

    Patrick Omameh | Jacksonville Jaguars
    20 Starts

    Ted Larsen | Arizona
    26 Starts

    Donald Penn | Oakland
    62 Starts

    Jeremy Zuttah | Baltimore
    41 Starts

    For some reason players play better when they leave Tampa
    Maybe Donovan Smith is on the wrong team

  11. BigHogHaynes Says:

    D Smith should be at LG!! …it’s called BUILDING A WALL …and it seems we don’t know how!!

  12. JAB83 Says:

    The Line is fine. We have Peyton Barber to thank for proving that.

    I would like to see us not make one single pick on Offense in this draft.

    I said it 2 years ago. Trade back and load up on picks. Se dont need any super stars we just need talented depth on D.

    Wuth JW you really dont need much on Offense.

    The problem this team faces every year is injury to key players… If everyone has the same talent level. Ghe only thing that will beat them is not working hard…

    We may need balance d talent on D like we have on O.

  13. NFLNut Says:

    BIGHOG … Smith is awfully tall to be a guard … not sure Jameis or any QB would like that … and JAB83 … NO, the line is not “fine” … Donovan and Ali and Dotson (when healthy) is fine … but we could definitely use a nasty road-grader who can also pass-block like Quenton Nelson!!!!!!

  14. William Berry Says:

    Tackle and Guard are different skillsets. You can’t just slide an OT over to guard and expect them to do well, unless they have the rare physical build that would allow an offensive lineman to play either position well, AND the ability to develop both skillsets, AND the time and ability to learn what both positions are required to do on every single play in the playbook, AND sufficient time to practice each position’s responsibilities enough to be effective at the position when called upon.

  15. Bob in Valrico Says:

    Both Marpet and Smith were helped tremendously with the addition of Mankins and Cherilous in 2015. Hawley is another seasoned vet that might add some cohesiveness to the line. An upgrade at guard, be it Marpet a good younger
    free agent or a drafted player, might be all we need to help our Tackles. At some
    point in the not to distant future we will have to find a replacement for Dotson.

  16. teacherman777 Says:


    Can you write something about Demar Dotsons season? And his injury?

    I dont know what injury he has and how long he will be out.


  17. Defense Rules Says:

    @Joe … “Smith said he cannot play right tackle. As in physically cannot play right tackle. Told Joe this last year and explained in detail.” I for one believe him … he can’t play Right Tackle. But I do agree with BigHog … he could (and 1 day should) play Left Guard. They are different skillsets, to a degree, like William said, but tons of NFL players successfully play BOTH. Donovan Smith (6’6″, 341 lbs) is a road-grader type, much like LG Carl Nicks (6’5″, 343 lbs) was. He’d run-block much better at LG than at LT I’m convinced.

    Bucs couldn’t slide him over this year simply because they can’t afford to spend a high draft pick on a LT. But there are several FAs available (Norwell for instance) who would make excellent LG replacements for Pamphile there. Slide Marpet over to RG, draft a Center (Rounds 4-6) or use Joe Hawley at Center, keep Dotson at RT and yes, THEN we’d have a dominant OLine.

  18. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    I think we need a center…..period. Smith and Dotson are fine at tackle……Marpet & Pamphile at guard….keep Evan Smith for versatility sake and perhaps Sweezy with a new contract.

  19. Clw JB Says:

    He is serviceable and although most teams with a franchise QB immediately find an elite LT, we are happy to have a middle of the pack guy

    Kind of like the whole OLine – average in stats, average in appearance, just plain average – one standout player and we make him change positions and made him immediately average too…

    Hard to win against the elite when you just settle for average all the time

    At least the OLine isn’t the DLine or secondary…those position groups long to attain the level of average….

    Thanks Bucs!!

  20. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    The way I view it, is I like Donovan Smith where he is…but if an opportunity to get both better and younger arises without sacrificing DE, then take it. Although, Donovan Smith isn’t exactly old. He’ll turn 25 in June.

    Regardless, the name of the game is improvement. Imagine this…if we had a team with no holes and great depth, why draft? After all, the players would not be needed, right?

    We would still draft because the goal is to get good, and then keep getting better.

    So no starter should be a lock.

  21. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Tampabaybucfan Says
    “I think we need a center…..period. Smith and Dotson are fine at tackle……Marpet & Pamphile at guard….keep Evan Smith for versatility sake and perhaps Sweezy with a new contract.”

    With the current state of the offensive line, I have to disagree.

    Dotson is a wasted roster spot. He’ll turn 33 next season, and he has not had a complete season since 2014. The best ability is AVAILability. He;ll never have another full season again, and if the Bucs ut him, he would likely retire at this point.

    Evan Smith will be 32 in July, and he has not had a complete season since 2013. On top of that, he is not a good player. We can replace him with someone who is not as old and is healthier.

    Marpet needs to remain at center. This is an about-face for me, because I originally felt moving him was wrong (even if he was on my wishlist as a center when he was drafted). But the simple truth is that he was acclimated to the position by the time he was put on IR, and we all know IR was just a precaution because the Bucs had nothing to play for.

    Sweezy, believe it or not, played better as the season played out…especially toward the end. Remember back before the 2017 season started? Joe had cautioned that Sweezy would probably not be a difference maker his first year back. I think he had done some research at the time and discovered a trend or something (if I am remembering right). So expectations were a little too high on him considering he was injured for nearly 2 years.

    On the topic of Center, if you got what you wanted and Marpet moved back to Center, we had Joe Hawley, who is healthy now. He had one bad snap in 2017, but it was one of his first games back, and understandable. It did not happen again. His strength is better because he is healthy. At the very least, he is a great backup to Marpet. He removes the need to get another center (except for depth).

    Right tackle is the only reason for concern on the offensive line (has been for two years). The rest is just giving it time for the line to grow together.

  22. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    if Marpet moved back to guard I meant.

  23. The Buc Realist Says:

    He is a serviceable LT this year, Last year his penalties killed the team!!!!!! He was the second most penalized player in the whole league in 2016!!!!! He made huge improvements in that area!!!!! If he takes one more step up next year, then he will be a very good LT, not great, but very good Donald Penn is his prime type LT!!!!!!!!!!!

    This year it was the guard play that was the worst of the offense!!!! The line play actually picked up when jr sweez was replaced!!!!!! The good news is that guards are one of the easier O-line positions to fill!!!!!! That and a decent RB upgrade and we will see a pretty good Offense!!!!!!

    Go Bucs!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. Scotty in Fat Antonio Says:

    I think all of this points back to George Warhop, our much maligned OL coach. How exactly has this guy proven to be a good coach?

  25. StPeteBucsFan Says:

    We have to continue to rebuild the trenches but I agree the OL is not nearly as big a project as the DL.

    We’re going to have a good player drop to us at 7 IF we do not trade down for more picks which is also OK by me.

    But given I’m not a giant Minkah Fitzpatrick guy…excellent player yes…generational? BPA? I just can’t buy it.

    However Nelson is a different story. He IS considered generational by many NFL draft guru’s who believe he’s a top 5 talent except he plays guard. Grab him and the OL MAY be fixed. Like Bonzai I worry about RT…Dot is getting long in the tooth. Don’t know if Pamphile or Benenoch could grow and hold down that spot.

    Sweezy had a bad year. Not sure I totally give up on him though. Nobody believed he’d even play again after the back surgery…perhaps two years removed he’ll be a little healthier and actually be able to contribute. I concede this is a bit like hoping Noah’s shoulder will be ok but if there is no cost to keeping him I want to get one more look at Sweezy and his health.

  26. Hodad Says:

    The guy has played LT since college, moving him to guard would have the same results as moving Marpet to center. We needed an upgrade at guard, and center last year, just shuffling the guys we have to different positions isn’t going to work.

  27. Rod Munch Says:

    Smith isn’t an issue the team needs to address. I mean if they can get a dominant LT then moving Smith to RT would make him probably a good RT as opposed to an average LT, but the cost of getting a LT that is clearly better than Smith would be very high.

  28. BringBucsBack Says:

    Doesn’t every offensive lineman want to run-block? Doesn’t every O line get better by committing to the run; in practice and in games?

    Koetter should have taken this approach in the latter half of the year to solidify the O line, improve / increase our RB’s performance, cut down on low %age QB plays and turnovers. Especially in a lost season, this approach would have been, in my opinion, forward-thinking.

    The O line could use some improvement and if the opportunities present themselves, a reasonable organization takes action.

  29. NoFlyZone27 Says:

    Donovan Smith is not a concern going into the offseason for me.

    The LG position, the Center position and the RG position are concerns. Pamphile should have been the starter and given full opportunity to win or lose the job. I don’t have questions about Ali at all, I just want to know is he going to remain at Center or go back to Guard.

    We had high expectation for Sweezy but coming off a back injury, he may not ever be the player he was in Seattle.

    I’m stuck being wanting us draft Chubbs or Nelson knowing we need both.

  30. godzilla13 Says:

    Donovan Smith has improved each year and that is what you want to see. He goes up against the best DE’s in the league every Sunday and he five less penalties than prior year. In 2016, Smith gave up zero sacks and no one talked about that (per Washington Post). He also had a multiple game stretch in 2017, where he did not give up a single QB pressure. In the last game against the Saints he was our best OL and played like it. The point here is that he has shown that he is capable of playing top ten LT in games, which means he has the potential to be a top ten LT. Smith and the OL is the least of this teams worries. Look back at 2015 when Doug Martin ran for the 2nd most NFL rushing yards and ask yourself what was different then? Logan Mankins. We need an All-Pro left guard. Keep Martin. Look at his yearly stats. This is his breakout season.