The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had offensive line issues for years on end, but they looked like they were mostly over against the Cincinnati Bengals—despite the fact that the Bengals have a very good line, and despite the fact that the Bucs were missing starting center Ali Marpet.
Here, look at that group: it’s holding up impeccably, and this was fairly standard throughout the 21 snaps the starting five played.
Michael Johnson spin move fail. Nice catch by Brate. This Tampa offense will be a problem pic.twitter.com/LhPmw7InIv— Billy Marshall (@BillyM_91) August 11, 2017
One caveat here: I don’t think this says that much about left tackle Donovan Smith in particular, even though I’ve seen this shared as an example of Smith’s qualities—most notably by JoeBucsFan.
For one, he’s going up against Michael Johnson who is a pretty decent all-around defensive end, but not a particularly good pass rusher. We all enjoyed that lackluster ability to beat tackles for the one year he spent in Tampa.
For two: Smith has always had highlight-reel plays like this, the issue is that he’ll have too many lowlight plays in a game. That inconsistency is terrible for an offensive line. You can be the most dominant group around for 50 out of 60 snaps, but if those 10 other snaps get your quarterback sacked every time, that still won’t get you very far. Offensive line play is about play-to-play consistency, not about highlights.
That’s not to say that Smith is bad, just that this particular, individual play doesn’t really tell you much—nor does it tell you what was most impressive about Smith’s play against the Bengals: consistency.
That’s why this first preseason game was so encouraging: the offensive line was consistent, especially in pass protection. I can’t wait to see what it looks like once Ali Marpet returns.