The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been struggling with their left tackle position for a while now. Last year, they drafted Donovan Smith in the second round to fill that role. He had a rather up-and-down rookie season, but general manager Jason Licht was hopeful that he’d improve and turn into a solid lineman with some more time.
So far, though, we haven’t seen much of that. According to Pro Football Focus, he now leads the league in pressures allowed with a whopping 27. No other tackle has allowed more than 25. That’s a pretty disastrous stat.
Of course, this statistic doesn’t say everything. Pressures are a somewhat subjective measure, and the opponents and the quarterback have a significant amount of influence on when they happen. Get rid of the ball quickly, and there is no pressure. Play against the Bucs defensive line, and you’re not going to give up a lot of pressures either.
The Bucs have faced fairly good pass-rushing teams, most notably the Denver Broncos and St. Louis Rams, and Jameis Winston has had a tendency to hold on to the ball a little too long. Those things have had some effect — but they only explain so much, especially given the fact that Smith had a very good game against Robert Quinn, the best pass-rusher he’s faced so far.
And in reality, Donovan Smith’s tape really doesn’t look that good, either. He has some good plays, and even some dominant ones, but he also gets beat far too often and far too easily. It’s obvious when you watch him, and we don’t really need to think up excuses for that kind of performance.
In the long run, Smith may simply not be a good fit at left tackle. There’s always a chance he gets better — linemen often take a while and sometimes years to adjust to the NFL. But so far, the situation is at least worrying.