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Can Donovan Smith protect Jameis Winston's blind side?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers really like their left tackle, Donovan Smith. They've made that obvious by drafting him at the top of the second round in last year's draft, and by not signing anyone who could compete for his spot. But people keep telling the world, and also the Bucs, that Donovan Smith really isn't the kind of player you want to put that much on. The latest in that vein: Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated, who watched Saturday's preseason game.

The Buccaneers’s starting offense was out of whack—no Doug Martin and an off night from Jameis Winston will do that. More troublesome than the lack of points, though, was how much Donovan Smith struggled against a handful of different edge players. Jared Odrick (see below) blew up a play off Smith’s side of the line, as did Sen’Derrick Marks later—and was already past Smith’s inside shoulder when Smith reacted to a the snap.

I honestly didn't see Donovan Smith struggle that much, though it is quite common for him to look a little overwhelmed even while he gets the job done. The problem -- or perhaps the good thing -- is that Jameis Winston is really good at getting the ball out before pressure affects him, which makes a lot of Smith getting beat not as troublesome as it normally would be.

But Smith's struggles are often visible on film and no, that's not just because Pro Football Focus is silly and we all need to hate them for weirdass reasons. Every third party who's consistently watched Smith says the same thing. I'm saying the same thing, too: Smith is inconsistent and gets beat too often. It's so obvious that it shouldn't be remotely controversial, even if the Bucs are convinced that he's going to be their long-term starter at left tackle.

And the last bit may even be true. It's hard to find good left tackles, and Smith is young and inexperienced. It would not be surprising to see him take a few big steps forward either this year or the next. But in the mean time and until he does, he may also turn out to be the team's Achilles heel, especially against good opponents -- you know, the kind who tend to have very good pass rushers on their roster.