A Message to the Critics: Donovan Smith is a Valuable Buccaneer
At the end of the 2015 season, Donovan Smith looked better than any of the five rookie tackles drafted before him. The #5 Overall, Brandon Scherff (Redskins) was moved to guard and it was not initially pretty. The #9 Overall, Ereck Flowers (Giants) was a penalty-riddled mess. The #13 Overall, Andrus Peat was slow in developing due to missing starts with lower extremity injuries, but the potential was evident. The #21 Overall, Cedric Obguehi spent most of his rookie season recovering from an ACL tear and didn’t start a game until December but made the most of his few opportunities. The #24 Overall, D.J. Humphries has never lived up to his obvious talent. It was noted that Cardinals coach nicknamed Humphries, “Knee Deep” as it was required that Arians kept his foot planted in Humphries rear to gently motivate him.
Enter Donovan Smith. He finished as PFWA All-Rookie along with his best friend, Ali Marpet. Most respected sports analysts graded the Bucs offensive line as a top ten outfit and a couple had the Bucs top five with Pro Bowl guard, Logan Mankins and right tackle, Demar Dotson as top ten at their respective posts. The Bucs sported a Pro Bowl quarterback, Jameis Winston, a 1,200+ yard receiver in Mike Evans, a 1st Team All-Pro Running Back, Doug Martin with 1,673 yards and second-banana back, Charles Sims II also chipped in with 1,090 yards.
So what’s happened since then? Fired and retired around Donovan mostly. With Mankins and Smith, the Bucs averaged 5.1 yards per carry to the left. Even Marpet/Dotson only averaged 4.7 on the right and Marpet was a “Pad-Level, Dirt-Devil”. The firings and retiring(s) always impact a player, as does changes in coaching philosophies. The Bucs became a singular-purpose, pass happy offense. Head coach, Dirk Koetter announced that the Bucs would be a “Pass-First” offense and he commenced to turning Jameis Winston into Slingin’ Sammy Baugh. The Bucs were third in the league in pass attempts in 2017 with 605 and surpassed that with a whopping 625 in 2018. In 2018, the Bucs finished 12th in scoring, 3rd in total offense and 1st in passing offense. And 1st in turnovers with a gaudy 35—and a fired head coach. What’s more astounding is the Bucs finished 14th in adjusted sack rate with pass plays perpetually telegraphed, no emphasis or care for the running game and only one impactful ‘In-Line-Y-Type-Tight End’ to speak of, O.J. Howard. Who, ironically, found himself in the pattern vice blocking as well. Where does that leave Donovan Smith? He may stay a Buc where he’s made every start in his 64-game career. It’s unclear if that’s smart for Smith. He’s 25 now. It is clear that he’s not a fan favorite and many have uttered that he’s overpaid at his currently $1,517,215. If Donovan was on a team with two ‘In-Line-Y-Type’ tight ends like the Steelers with Jesse James and Vance McDonald or his hometown favorite Baltimore Ravens with Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews, it may be better for Donovan and Bucs fans. However, it doesn’t seem like Licht and Arians think that the best way forward for the Bucs. It’s a conundrum. Suffice it to say, if the Bucs don’t give Donovan a slight pay bump in his current $1,517,215 annual salary, there’s a remote chance another team might. If that’s the case, Bucs fans should wish him well. He’s been better than his circumstances.
Written by – James Coleman of Bucs Life News