When you have two rookie offensive linemen starting from day one, with one responsible for your rookie quarterback’s blindside, needless to say, you either have a couple of impressive big men or a lack of depth at those positions. Luckily for the 2015 Buccaneers, both were true of left tackle Donovan Smith and right guard Ali Marpet. Going into their second NFL season, Smith and Marpet are now battle tested and ready to prove their initial worth to the team.
Smith, the 6’6” 339 lbs. product out of Penn State is the perfect bookend size for a prototypical tackle. Smith was slated among “NFL draft insiders” as a fit at right tackle in the league, although the Bucs placed him on the left. Smith, who was picked up with the 34th overall selection, struggled early on in his rookie campaign. Getting out maneuvered by opposing veteran pass rushers, it was quite evident that he was still trying to catch up to the speed and experience at the highest level of the game. Slow off of the snap caused Smith to be off base, therefore losing leverage. Also, poor technique and slow footwork kept him from grasping his role entirely, especially when it came to pass blocking. These are common rookie mistakes in which Smith began correcting during the progression of the season. He ended last season very strong. Smith was named to the NFL.com all-rookie team, per USA Today.
Smith’s fellow draft classman, Ali Marpet was selected as the Bucs’ second 2nd round pick, and played his collegiate ball at Hobart and William & Smith College, a Division III program located in upstate New York. Marpet became an overnight draft favorite after standing out at the 2015 Senior Bowl, in which he was the first Division III player to play in that bowl. In addition, he was invited and performed phenomenally at the NFL Combine. At 6’4” 309 lbs., Marpet has the footwork and hand technique to be that swing guard, and be quite good at it. Like Smith, Marpet struggled early on in 2015, especially getting into position with some of the zone blocking schemes. Marpet also was initially slow to the punch when it came to picking up stunts. Due to his quick feet and additional game experience, he was up to par and popping open holes for RB’s Doug Martin and Charles Sims to get them to the second level. Smith and Marpet were among a line which also included the two veterans in Logan Mankins and Evan Smith, which had to be instrumental in the development of the two young linemen.
O-Line coach, George Warhop deserves a lot of kudos for effectively coaching up these guys, and was rewarded by being retained for his 3rd season in Tampa, and his 22nd overall, per Buccaneers.com. Now with a healthy Demar Dotson, Warhop can continue establishing a solid front five. Even with the right tackle carousel of last season, the Buccaneers offense ranked 5th overall in total offensive yardage averaging 375.9 yards per game, according to NFL.com. The running game flourished as well, as the offense ranked 5th overall with 2,159 yards for the season, per Pro Football Focus. Only giving up 27 sacks on the season sounds quite solid until you factor that the pocket awareness and capability to escape a broken pocket from Winston kept that number lower.
In 2016, Smith and Marpet should only become more reliable and consistent after impressive rookie starting performances. During OTA’s and minicamp, both looked healthy and ready to improve their play when the season rolls around. The sky seems to be the limit for these young players, as they have stamped their spots on the Buccaneers’ roster.
Share your opinion with us on twitter...@TBBucsonScout
Listen to our latest podcast here: