Donovan Smith had an interesting rookie season. The second-round pick was immediately installed as the team’s left tackle, and played there for the entire season — a pretty demanding task. Smith visibly struggled and was inconsistent, but didn’t allow many sacks, mostly because Jameis Winston is really good about getting the ball out in time or scrambling away from pressure. But Smith’s struggles certainly showed up on tape, which is why Pro Football Focus hasn’t been too impressed. Neither has Football Outsiders, who charted him as having the worst blown block rate in the league in this year’s Football Outsiders Almanac.
That’s not exactly an encouraging statistic for a franchise left tackle who’s protecting a franchise quarterback. Smith has all the necessary talent to be a very good left tackle, but is far too inconsistent in terms of technique and especially footwork. He’s often a little sluggish to get back in his pass blocking, which is not a trait you want in someone who lines up against a lot of speed-rushers.
This fits the Tampa Bay Buccaneers kind of weird view of offensive linemen: they’ve consistently preferred big, physically talented but inconsistent players, to less talented but technically sound and consistent ones. Apparently, they think that offensive line coach George Warhop can fix all those deficiencies, but we haven’t actually seen any evidence of that ability over the past three years.
None of this means that Smith is doomed to fail, of course. He was a rookie last year, and rookie often struggle — especially left tackles, with very few early successes over the past five years or so. Smith could easily improve and turn out to be a very good offensive lineman in the long run. But last year’s play really wasn’t good enough.