The Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be able to rely on left tackle Donovan Smith against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, as the rookie told the media today that he was ready to go in practice. Smith suffered an ankle injury in the team's third preseason game and was seen as a walking boot just last week, but has apparently recovered very quickly.
#Bucs rookie LT. Donovan Smith says he will be full go in practice today and is ready to go for the opener vs. Titans— Roy Cummings (@RCummingsTBO) September 9, 2015
That's obviously good news for a team that's struggled to field a competent offensive line for years. Despite being 'just' a second-round pick, Smith has looked good in the preseason, especially as a run-blocker and in reacting to defensive line movement. That said, Smith is far from perfect and specifically needs to work on his foot quickness in his passing sets -- but he's the best option the Bucs have at left tackle, and one showing a considerable amount of promise at that.
Smith's availability doesn't mean the Bucs won't face issues blocking for Jameis Winston on Sunday, though. The team struggled to recognize and adjust to blitzes in the preseason, and Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will undoubtedly have picked up on that. The Bucs claim they didn't specifically gameplan for blitzes and limited their own scheme in the preseason, it remains to be seen whether they can adjust quickly enough once the real games start.
Another concern is the interior offensive line as a whole. Logan Mankins is clearly on the decline and is a bit of a liability in pass protection against quicker defensive linemen, like the Titans' Jurrell Casey. Evan Smith is okay as a center, but not a difference-maker, while Ali Marpet has a ton of physical talent but is still struggling to adjust to the speed of play in the NFL. Even if the Bucs manage to pick up all of the blitzes flawlessly, which seems unlikely, there will still be a number of plays where those players will get beat individually. And that alone could kill any hopes the Bucs have of being productive on offense.