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Comfort level the key for Redskins’ Smith as he looks for a big season

Aug 28, 2016, 1:48 PM EDT

Preston-Smith-vs-Bills-USAT

Preston Smith was all over the place during the 24 snaps he played in the Redskins’ preseason game against the Bills. He had two tackles, one for a five-years loss. The second-year outside linebacker nearly got a sack of Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor but Taylor was able to get rid of the ball just before Smith hit him from the blindside.

The Redskins are looking for big things out of their 2015 second-round draft pick this year and it looks like they might get them. They are looking for him to come at the offense from more places than he did last year, when he led all NFL rookies with eight sacks.

The key for Smith? Comfort.

“I’m getting a lot more comfortable in my role this year,” said Smith. “My role is building up from last year. I’m comfortable in the playbook and I’m comfortable with what I’ve got to do. I just go out there and play the best I can.”

Among the new roles he is being asked to assume this year is dropping back in coverage from his outside linebacker spot more often. Most pass rushers would rather move forward but Smith seems to relish the opportunity to learn more and contribute more.

“I got a pick six this week in practice,” he said proudly. “I’m getting a lot more comfortable in my role dropping back. I’ve been working on it a lot more with Coach Manusky, what angles to take to take away a lot of good throws and increase the chance of getting interceptions.”

Smith’s interception came during a portion of practice that was closed to the media. Like a good teammate he wouldn’t say who threw it, other than to say it wasn’t starter Kirk Cousins.

Head coach Jay Gruden is always quick to praise Smith but he was particularly enthusiastic after the Bills game.

“So far he’s looked excellent. I felt him today on the sideline. I felt him on the edge. I felt in the backfield disrupting plays. He’s physical at the point of attack. He can drop in coverage which he hasn’t done a whole lot in his life. He’s been effective. We haven’t used him in all the areas we’re going to use him yet. I think there’s more things he can do. He’s a big, physical kid. He is more comfortable and more confident. Another one that is from year one to year two. That’s a big step and we expect big improvement.”

There’s that concept of being comfortable again.

“I’m trying my best to make my presence felt when I’m out there on the field,” said Smith when told of Gruden’s comments. “They know what side I’m they recognize where I am whether I’m standing up on the left side, on the right side in a three-point stance, or standing up in the middle, I want them to recognize my presence.”

It appears that as long as Smith stays comfortable we will all recognize his presence once the regular season starts.

  1. 3rdstringsuperstar - Aug 28, 2016 at 2:38 PM

    Smith hits the running back, knocks him into the 11th grade.
    Funny thing is, he could be that good.

  2. redskins12thman - Aug 28, 2016 at 2:41 PM

    Smith could have a break-out season, and I’m hoping this is the case. With that said, there were at least a couple times in the Bills game where Smith wasn’t even blocked; somehow, I don’t think this will happen in the home opener against the Steelers.

    • Trey Gregory - Aug 28, 2016 at 3:22 PM

      That could have been on purpose. I know Theisman didn’t think so. But O-lines will purposely leave guys unblocked from time to time. Granted it’s mostly in the zone read/read option. But It’s impossible to truly know unless you know their blocking assignments.

      I have been taking the cautiously optimistic approach with Smith. There’s no guarantee he picks up where he left off and I wanted to see a bit make before I get too high on him. But it’s hard not to get really excited after the Bills game. It wasn’t just the plays where he wasn’t blocked. He had a good game. It also seems like Barry is using him on stunts more. Smith has all the makings of a top edge guy.

      There have been a couple preseason plays where I thought he didn’t give full effort or was oddly out of position. But only a handful. Overall he’s looked great. I’ll spend all season pouting again about what could have been with a galette, Smith, and Kerrigan on this team. But Smith could really break out and have a double digit sack season with an int or two of his own.

  3. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Aug 28, 2016 at 4:52 PM

    =============

    The changes in the league to benefit passing (and increase interest from people who didn’t care much about football) led to the decline of fullbacks.

    I don’t think those changes were good.
    ~

    • bangkokben - Aug 28, 2016 at 5:14 PM

      Perhaps if the league expands rosters guys like Young won’t get cut. Seems like he’d be perfect to be that 3rd down back that pass blocks and is a good outlet receiver.

      • Trey Gregory - Aug 29, 2016 at 2:59 AM

        An expanded roster probably would lead to more specialized positions on the roster. Like return specialists. Unfortunately, FBs are almost in that light now. But, just like teams use WRs, RBs, and DBs as returners, they’re using other position groups as a FB when they need one. Mostly TEs. So, if the rosters were expanded, why not carry 5 TEs and use one in the rare FB situation instead of 3-4 TEs and a FB?

        They would also need to expand the active game day rosters. None of these changes will happen all at once. It will take small steps. I think a good first step would be expanding the active roster for Thursday night games only. Right now, Thursday night games are not as good a product as Sunday and Monday games. There’s less time to prepare and recover. So they spin it as a player safety thing and putting a better product on the field. Instead of rushing players back on the field to play full games they could limit snaps or use a starter with a minor injury as a backup. All kinds of stuff. Just by expanding the roster to 53 on Thursdays and see how it goes. I want roster expansion but its probably not going to happen. But if it does, it will be small steps.

        • bangkokben - Aug 29, 2016 at 8:39 AM

          If they do away with some preseason games, then rosters need to be expanded and especially the active roster. If they don’t expand the active roster, guys like Young won’t have any role. If you’re the Redskins and you could carry two third-down backs, wouldn’t you want a guy like Young to pick-up blitzers and stay in for pass pro instead of Chris Thompson in some situations? I admit it is a bit specialized but Young would also be able to do the dirty work on special teams. It’s about finding a role for a valuable football player who no longer fits in today’s NFL.

  4. sidepull - Aug 28, 2016 at 5:33 PM

    Always analyzing draft picks, 24/7. It isnt easy to hit on a real keeper. They gotta sift through a lot of other players just to make a valuable find. Smith looks like the real deal. Man does this team need to hit on a nice young edge rusher. They have tried to make lemonade outta lemons many times, hanging on to players longer than they should in hopes that they could say “see” the pick was a good pick. I think Jarrett was going to be special as well. That injury to that kid still bothers me.

    • colorofmyskinz - Aug 28, 2016 at 7:33 PM

      Totally agree here. Bummed about Jarrett. I do think smith can be that edge rusher. Let’s hope Kerrigan can be a threat while he heals the groin starting in the first six weeks. That will open up the smith threat. Hope smith becomes special. We need special for 20 games.

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