Donovan Smith Joins The Elite

December 8th, 2021

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In his seventh NFL season, Donovan Smith is at the top of his game.

That game has been tantalizingly effective for long stretches, but then there would be a lapse that generated concern from Buc fans. Can we trust this guy to protect our quarterback’s blind side?

That question was magnified when Tampa Bay signed Tom Brady, who rarely strays from the safety of the pocket.

Smith’s durability has never been questioned. He has missed only two games since being installed at left tackle in 2015, despite a string of injuries along the way.

The issue surrounding Smith has always concerned his inconsistency. There were times he appeared sloppy and unfocused. For example, in a Week 9 debacle against the Saints last year, Trey Hendrickson had his way with Smith, registering two sacks and tormenting Brady off the right edge.

But when the postseason dawned, Smith was a critical component of a domineering offensive line. He didn’t allow a sack or commit a penalty in the championship drive and the Bucs rewarded him with a contract extension in March.

“I’m still young, I’m still learning,” Smith said when the new deal was announced . “I feel like that’s the biggest thing, because as you keep learning, the better you can get through the years. Once you feel like you’ve stopped learning or know it all, that’s when you become complacent and you’re just chilling.”

At the age of 28, Smith has ascended from the middle of the NFL’s left tackle pack to Top 5 status. He has worked diligently to improve his technique, allowing one sack in 2021 while being charged with only three holding calls. In eight of Tampa Bay’s 12 games, Smith has played 100 percent of the snaps.

What changed?

In pursuit of that answer, I turned to former Buc tight end Anthony Becht, a keen observer of NFL line play following an 11-year pro career. Becht’s response was both surprising and incisive.

“Right now, Donovan is up there with the best left tackles in the game,” he said. “I think the presence of Tristan Wirfs has been the difference maker for him. Donovan has had his lapses in the past, but seeing how polished Tristan has been right out of college pushed the envelope for everybody. This young kid has lifted everyone’s standard.”

Buc fans could care less about the process — all they know is Smith is playing at a very high level.

No team has thrown more passes than Tampa Bay and no team has yielded fewer sacks. That is one heck of an NFL exacta, a credit to the guys up front and the coaching staff. The Bucs have run the ball effectively for most of the season, yet only the Jets have fewer rushing attempts.

On average, Smith is in pass protection mode on two of every three snaps.

That’s a lot of wear and tear on a left tackle, taking on some of the league’s premier pass rushers ,but Smith has held up very well.

“With Wirfs being such a technician and getting a lot of love, it either motivates you as a teammate or causes you to go, why bother?” Becht says. “With a guy like Donovan Smith, everything’s there. Why wouldn’t you want to be great? What the Bucs are doing in terms of throwing the ball is phenomenal, given that Brady is standing in a 4×4 box. It’s high-level stuff on Brady’s part, but save some credit for Smith and that offensive line.”

The Bucs rank No. 1 in scoring offense and No. 2 in total offense through 12 games. Brady’s secure pocket has been the key and Smith is leading the way with a new-found focus.

“I’m still learning a lot.” Smith said back in March. “I just love it. I go out there and have fun with my guys, enjoy winning.”

It shows.

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33 Responses to “Donovan Smith Joins The Elite”

  1. Thisisouryear!!! Says:

    There’s a lot to be said about Brady staying where he’s supposed to be. Stepping into the pocket vs scrambling for an OL is huge.

  2. Robert Says:

    Gotta give him credit, and the entire O ine.

    I’ve heard stories of QB’s really doing insane stuff for their O line off the feild. They owe TB just as much hear though. He makes them look even better.

  3. SB Says:

    DS has always had the physical tools to be great. He just needed the mentality of Greatness.

  4. Chris@Apple Roof Cleaning Tampa Says:

    I remember him back in college, he was awesome then, and has only gotten better!
    Of course, when Brady arrived he was happy because Brady gets rid of the ball much faster than Winston ever did.

  5. tampabayallday Says:

    He’s earned it either way.

  6. SB~LV Says:

    Even when he was trying to hold his blocks for Jameis ,not knowing where in the world the QB was , Dirk and JL said he was grading out well !
    Now look at him with a QB on the designed spot and throwing on time….
    Gomer Pyle…ShaZammmmmmm !

  7. David Says:

    There’s no doubt in my mind they could be a dominant run blocking unit as well, they just don’t run that much.
    We saw it last year and we saw glimpses of it this year.

    The fact that Brady leads the league in passing attempts and has been sacked the least is a real testament to the O line and him.


  8. Irishmist Says:

    He rarely gets beat inside anymore, that used to be his weakness. I’m sure Brady told him to force his guy outside and I’ll have the ball out by the time he gets around you.

  9. ocala Says:

    I agree with Becht. Donovan is one of the top LT in the game. The Bucs should do everything they can to keep this line together. They need to sign Cappa and Jensen.

  10. D-Rome Says:

    I remember when the knuckle dragging mouth breathers around here wanted Smith to be benched or traded in favor of playing Caleb Benonoch or Goster Cherilus.

  11. Buczilla Says:

    Donovan is yet another player who has improved under this coaching staff. If a player can’t make something of themselves learning from these guys/gals then that’s on them. I question the play calling on both sides of the ball sometimes, but I don’t question this coaching staff one bit when it comes to developing dudes. So fun to be a Bucs fan nowadays. 😛

  12. DoooshLaRue Says:

    So after already being a highly paid LT, he required extra motivation to get better?
    Wirfs came in and showed him how to do it and he knew he was under the microscope with Brady being our QB.

    Glad he’s playing better but I don’t care for his penchant for lack of focus and laziness.
    I’d still rather see Wirfs as our LT.

  13. sauron's eye Says:

    Smith has improved greatly over the last 3 seasons. He is top level now.

  14. DavidBigBucsFan99 Says:

    If Trask gets to play behind this line there’s no way he can’t succeed

  15. Tackleblockwin Says:

    Oline continuity is important at any level of football. I think that is partly the reason Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet are so darn good.

  16. Eddie Marz Says:

    Best line in the game!

  17. SlyPirate Says:

    I remember his draft night.

    The draft announcers gushed about DSmith’s toolkit … size, speed, strength, arm length, hand size, smarts … he was the protoypical left tackle. But did he have the desire? I’m glad to see him develop.

  18. Lamarcus Says:

    Naw. I still don’t see it. Maybe because I just watch the Trent Williams special that was on the NFL network. Now that’s a top tackle

  19. Cleanhouse Says:

    We need to get both of our backs going again

  20. Steven007 Says:

    Lamarcus and doosh, a lot of rhetoric but tell me which other 8 to 10 left tackles you’d rather have? Remember, there are 32 of them. Bahktiari with Green Bay is always hurt. Williams has had his problems with injuries and other things. Tyron Smith is always hurt. Name the other elites. Or just be glad that we have our own. Every one of us posters can nitpick every player on the roster about something. But in the service of what exactly?

  21. Pewter Power Says:

    Irishmist Says:
    He rarely gets beat inside anymore, that used to be his weakness.

    Did you not see that nasty inside move he let of all people Steven means catch him with to make him get the holding penalty? He’s playing well thanks to Brady but he is not elite

  22. Rod Munch Says:


  23. Ben green Says:

    Is this ball washing session almost over? Really Joe, you think it the lineman? They’re a C+ to C- line. Smith included. Brady gets rid of the ball faster than he ever has!! And when a defense decided to play two deep, he’s more than happy to hand off. It’s what the master taught him. Smith is a good lineman, that’s it. Don’t make it a ball washing. Do these guys pay you to spout this garbage?…..

  24. Ben green Says:

    When he faces quality pass rushers, he looks more like a D+ Jesus Christ, y’all have been losers for so long, y’all munch on anything and everything that supports your argument.

  25. August 1976 Buc Says:

    It is good to se D Smith being consistent.
    Sorry Ben but you know it is a team Game. How did Brady do in the WFT game? Not that great, under pressure the quick pop gun version of TB12. Yes he gets the ball out quick most of time, but also one of leaders for deep passing also. So why don’t you send your masshole comments to Anthony Becht. He is actually a former player that does not give candy azz cheap compliments about different players. Try to enjoy your day Ben.

  26. Swampbuc Says:

    Who would we trust to know elite when they see it – experts. who are professionals at discerning caliber of players, including coaches, teammates and opponents, or a handful of idiots who fancy themselves as smarter than everyone else and post their twaddle here?

  27. Sparky Says:

    I know who i trust! The couch commandos like doosh, crazybuc, and Ben Green and his “sources.”
    They know so much that every team considers them too dangerous to hire. That leaves just us as their pupils as they teach master classes in “Believing Your Own Hype” and “Sniffing My Own Farts Made Me a Genius”

  28. adam from ny Says:

    big donnie is really doing great…

    someone’s gotta say it…

    he’s caught a lot of sh!t in the past from fans and media, but he’s become a pillar out there on the left this season…


  29. adam from ny Says:

    also jameis caused people to look bad with all his unorthodox pocket shennanies…

    when them magoo eyes got all bulgie, you knew sh!t was about to get crazy!…

    and it always did

  30. Sparky Says:

    The main thing he still needs to improve on is penalties. He’s averaged .5 penalties per game for his entire career and is at .58 so far this season.

  31. geno711 Says:

    Not sure why guys want Wirfs as a left tackle and take D Smith out of the lineup.

    Wirfs is all ready an all pro at right tackle (whether the NFL gives him that designation or not). Fans hope he will be as good as left tackle and then have to find a capable replacement at right tackle.

    Why weaken your team?

    We pass the most in a passing league and have given up the least sacks!

  32. Swampbuc Says:

    @Sparky –


  33. Brandon Says:

    But but but but, he’s terrible… we should cut him… SMH. Same clowns that want Smith cut were the ones that demanded we sign Sherman.