The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are starting at least two rookies on their offensive line this year. That's always risky, but it's doubly risky when your quarterback is a rookie who is primarily a pocket passer. So far, though, left tackle Donovan Smith and right guard Ali Marpet's play has been encouraging -- not perfect, but good enough to where you can say that they can probably be quality starters in the NFL.
Stephen White joined Ronnie Lane and Tom Krasniqi on 620 WDAE to talk about the Bucs' two preseason games, and what he said about Smith and Marpet was pretty positive.
"Donovan Smith had the one play, the first play when he gave up the sack against the Vikings and that kind of tainted everybody's view of how he played, but I thought after that he actually played pretty well. He still has some things to work on, he stops his feet way too often, and even for a big guy with long arms like him, if you stop your feet, you're gonna get beat. But when he's on, there's some clips from that Bengals game where he's just crushing guys. And he got a holding penalty which to me wasn't even holding, he just kind of pancaked the guy. So I feel there's a lot to be encouraged about with Donovan Smith."
"I think Marpet really made a step forward from his game against the Vikings, where he had a couple nice plays, but he also had some plays where he gave up a lot of pressure because he didn't step up and really stone guys at the line of scrimmage. This game against guys like Geno Atkins he looked like he belonged, he didn't look like he was nervous at all. He did give up the sack eventually, but early on he played very well against Geno Atkins and he looked to be frustrating Geno a little bit and you don't see that very often."
"These guys are very encouraging but we have to understand that as rookies, the only way they're going to learn some of these things is to make mistakes. And you will see them make those mistakes and you can't get to low, because you want to see what they do after that. And I've seen encouraging things from both guys so far."
In all, that fits with what I've seen out of those two players. Both of them looked especially impressive in the run game, while they need to work on a few things in pass protection. Those growing pains will lead to some ugly plays this year, but this offensive line looks like a group the Bucs could win quite a few games with.
You can listen to the full audio below, as White talked about the pass rush, Bruce Carter and much more.