Once the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost two Pro Bowl offensive linemen before the third day of training camp, it became clear that the tackle duo of Donovan Smith and Tristan Wirfs would be needed more than ever.

Wirfs was his usual self, walling off pass rushers and blowing out running lanes before his injury. The right side of the Buccaneers offensive line was in great hands when Wirfs was healthy.

Smith, on the other hand has struggled since Week 1.

And Todd Bowles is concerned about his starting left tackle.

“It’s a concern – he knows he didn’t play his best game, we know he didn’t play his best game,” Bowles told reporters Wednesday. “He’ll bounce back from it, he understands that. We expect more from him and he expects more from himself.”

Per Pro Football Focus, Smith is on pace to allow the most total pressures (36) in a single season since 2019, when he allowed 35. He’s also allowed 6.0 sacks, which puts him on pace for 9.0 sacks.

If Smith allows 9.0 sacks in 2022, it will mark a new career-worst for the veteran offensive lineman.

It’s not just the poor play, either. Smith has nine penalties on the season and a lot of them have been called at crucial moments. One only has to go back to last week and point out Smith’s holding penalty that not only wiped out a touchdown, but put the Buccaneers in an extremely difficult first-and-goal from the Saints 15.

Fortunately for Smith, Tom Brady and co. overcame the penalty and scored the game-winning touchdown.

In Smith’s defense, he’s been playing with an injured elbow since Week 1. It’s the same elbow that caused him to bow out in the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys and miss the Week 2 and Week 3 matchups against the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers.

But he’s not going to use that as an excuse for poor play and neither will Bowles.

“I’m sure it’s hurting him – he’s not going to make that excuse and if he’s out there, we’re not going to make that excuse either,” said Bowles. “We’ve just got to play better.”

Bowles is right, but it’d be a good idea to give Smith some help whenever possible. The only problem is Wirfs is currently out and one can easily argue Josh Wells needs more help than Smith, which really stretches the situation to the max.

So, the Buccaneers really need Smith to step up and play like the guy they saw -and we saw- over the final quarter of the 2020 season and all of the 2021 season.

Or else the Buccaneers offense is going to continue to struggle and hold the team back.

Featured image via Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

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