When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded up for Ali Marpet in the second round of this year's draft, they didn't expect him to make an early impact. The guard had played his college football at Division III Hobart College, and had no real experience going against top-flight competition. Sure, Marpet's athleticism is off the charts, but how quickly would he be able to adjust to the NFL level?
Turns out, pretty quickly.
This week, Pro Football Focus thought Ali Marpet was one of the best two guards in the NFL, especially because of his work in the run game. And re-watching the game, I can only affirm that. He only rarely gets beat now, doesn't need much help in pass protection, and his athleticism and power make him a force in the running game -- both in base blocks, and when he's asked to block on the move.
The same can't be said of left tackle Donovan Smith, although he's steadily getting better as well. Smith's technique continues to be sloppy and there are a few plays in every game where he looks like a signpost, and not an obstacle. He's getting better, but he's got a much longer way to go than Marpet does.
Still, overall, the Bucs can be pretty happy with the way both Smith and Marpet have developed. The offensive line isn't a liability, even if it struggles at times, and that's a lot more than we could say of last year's Bucs.