Preston Smith’s impact on the Redskins

One of the problems with the Washington Redskins during the 2014 season was their defense. For example, they collected only 36 sacks while the opposition sacked quarterback Robert Griffin III a total of 58 times.

Sack leaders included Ryan Kerrigan (13.5), Jason Hatcher (5.0), Frank Kearse (3.0), and Trent Murphy (2.5). Standout linebacker Brian Orakpo, who played in three Pro Bowls, garnered only half a sack and didn’t play most of the season due to injury. He later signed with the Tennessee Titans during free agency.

It was obvious the Skins needed players that could offer them better results in the sacks category. That’s why they drafted Preston Smith in the second round (38th overall pick) in the 2015 NFL Draft.

A defensive lineman and sometime outside linebacker for Mississippi State, Smith collected 27 tackles for loss, 16 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and an interception return for a touchdown during his college career. Conference coaches selected him to the All-SEC team after his senior year.

Analysts touted him before the draft as a top prospect. In the overview, it was written:

Recorded 5 tackles (one sack) in the 2015 Senior Bowl. Started all 13 games in 2014 and led team with 15 tackles for loss and 9 sacks en route to being selected first-team All-SEC. Had an interception return for a touchdown against UAB. In 2013, played in 12 games (11 starts) and made 44 tackles, including 6.5 for loss (2.5 sacks). Selected Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the Liberty Bowl in win over Rice. In 2012, played in 13 games and led team with 4.5 sacks. Made 11 starts in 2011.

Graphic via betbigdc

His strengths:

Angular build with long arms. Has point-of-attack strength and doesn’t get pushed around. Plays with leverage against the run. Very sound wrap-up tackler who usually finishes the job. Flashes busy hands as a pass rusher and uses them to gain advantage. Gets arm extension, finds running back and looks to shed against gap running plays. As a junior, rushed passer from both ends and over the nose while also dropping into space on occasion. Can be a disruptive player when asked to play the gaps. Has ability to slip and go when rushing from inside position.

His weaknesses:

Must time snap to get enough burst upfield to win the edge. More of an edge-rounder than corner-turner. Pedestrian inside pass-rush moves. Scouts say he “sees it” but doesn’t have the quick-twitch athleticism to react quickly enough to make plays. Disengages a step slow. Takes too long to ramp up to play speed when asked to stop/start. Will jog and watch in pursuit away. Lacks power to bull rush.

He appears to have the perfect build to play outside linebacker. He stands 6-feet, 6-inches and weighs 270 pounds. He has long arms (34-inches) and big hands (10-5/8-inches), and ran the 40 in 4.74-seconds at the NFL Combine. Other measurables include 10-foot, 1-inch broad jump, and 7.07 time on the three-cone drill. He rushed from the outside linebacker and interior line positions in college and that’s how the Redskins will use him. He’s expected to play outside linebacker on base downs and rush inside in sub-packages.

Because of his attitude, work ethic, display of potential in the classroom and on the field during the three-day rookie minicamp held at Redskins Park in May, coaches tapped him a “standout.”

James Dudko, featured columnist with, uses tape to breakdown Smith’s rushing linebacker and 5-technique endplay as well as his versatility.

The bottom line is that the Redskins defense needs someone to fill the hole left when Brian Orakpo departed for the Titans during free agency. In fact, they need someone to play better than Orakpo who, despite several appearances in the Pro Bowl, was a disappointment during his seven seasons with the Skins.

Smith’s play could be a major key to the success of the entire defense. If he plays well, then that will assist Ryan Kerrigan, Jason Hatcher, Terrance Knighton, and Stephen Paea to amass more sacks and the defensive backfield to collect more turnovers.

Graphic via seattlepi

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