TAMPA – Since coming to the NFL as a second-round pick (34th overall) two years ago, Buccaneers left tackle Donovan Smith has taken quite a beating from analysts outside of Tampa Bay.
The numbers crunchers at ProFootballFocus have been particularly hard on Smith, saying his play a year ago in particular was “a real issue’’ as they had him surrendering 57 QB pressures while taking 14 penalties.
Bucs offensive line coach George Warhop can see where the critics are coming from. He wasn’t all that happy with Smith’s play himself last year, at least not during the first half of the season.
Warhop said Smith simply lacked consistency during the first seven or eight games of the 2016 season, but he added that Smith corrected that issue in the second half and more than likely for good.
“I just think he’s getting comfortable with what he is,’’ Warhop said. “I mean, I’ve been fortunate to work with some really good tackles, and when they figure out what they are that’s when they do their best.
“And for him, it’s just a process of figuring that out. We have to sort out what he does best and I think he began to figure that out around Game 8 or Game 9 last year and settled in after that.’’
Warhop said he believes Smith developed a foundation from which to build upon late last year. As a result, he believes Smith is on the brink of braking out and becoming one of the league’s best tackles.
That’s right. One of the best. Critics may scoff at such a suggestion but Warhop believes Smith has everything a player at his position needs to be an elite-level performer and that it will soon start to show consistently.
“I’m excited about Donovan,’’ Warhop concluded. “I mean, he’s an unbelievable talent, and when I say unbelievable, I think he can literally be one of the top two or three tackles in the league.
“That just my opinion. I mean, he’s got strength; he’s got quickness and athleticism; he’s smart. I just thought that during the early part of (last) year he just wasn’t very consistent.
“But no, I am really excited for Donovan, and I think you all better get ready for somebody to do something spectacular, because I think he’s going to be a really great player for us.’’