TAMPA, Fla. -- Before April's NFL draft, Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive line coach George Warhop read reports suggesting they'd draft an offensive tackle at No. 19. He's still not sure as to the source of those reports.
"I saw that. I'm like, 'Really?'" Warhop said. "Unless they know something I don't."
Some of that may have to do with increased criticism on left tackle Donovan Smith, who has struggled at times over the past two seasons.
Pro Football Focus graded him as the No. 69 tackle in the league, scoring a 63.9 as a run blocker and a 38.7 as a pass blocker. He allowed 111 pressures over the past two seasons, second-most in the NFL behind Ereck Flowers. He also allowed a league-high 45 pressures through the first nine games of the season.
But Warhop believes the arrow is pointing up.
"If you watch him in the second half of the season, he played way better for us," Warhop said. "I think that's where he is and where he's gonna go up from. I'm excited for Donovan. I think you all better get ready for somebody to do something spectacular for us."
Statistics suggest that may be the case. Quarterback Jameis Winston was pressured on 166 pass attempts last season, the most of any quarterback in the NFL. But if you look at Weeks 12-17, he was pressured 54 times, eighth in the league. It should be noted that this pressure wasn't exclusive to the left side.
The key for Smith has been putting it all together. Warhop believes he has the strength, quickness and athleticism to play the position at an elite level. But he has to get comfortable with himself and the tools he has to counter some of the better pass-rushers.
"He is an unbelievable talent," Warhop said. "When I say he's 'unbelievable,' I think he literally can be one of the top two or three tackles in the league. That's just my opinion though."