Reviewing Preston Smith


Feb 20, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Mississippi State defensive lineman Preston Smith speaks to the media at the 2015 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Preston Smith wasn’t on my top 50 prospects before the draft mainly because I viewed him as a tweener. He is too small to be a 3-4 defensive end and not quick enough to be a traditional 3-4 outside linebacker. That would make him a 4-3 defensive end which the Redskins have no need of.

Since the draft, however, Smith has lost some weight and may be down from 271 pounds to about 260-265 pounds. If he maintains his strength and gains quickness, he could become a starting outside linebacker for the Redskins over time. For now, he will be playing many roles for the team.

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In 2014, Smith was a dynamic defensive end at Mississippi State but was used all across the line. On passing downs, Smith often lined up over the center as a pass-rushing nose tackle. He was very effective in that role and demanded double and triple team blocks.

When lined up at defensive end, Smith did a good job setting the edge versus the run. He was able to shed blocks quickly and tackle the runner. He took good pursuit angles to minimize gains by the ball carrier.

As a pass rushing defensive end, Smith displayed great power versus most offensive tackles and used his length well in sacking the quarterback. He totaled 9 sacks and 15 tackles for loss in 2014. Both of those numbers led the team which had one of the top defenses in college football last season.

Smith’s biggest weakness is a lack of quickness

Smith’s biggest weakness is a lack of quickness. He could have had many more sacks if he had a better closing burst. His excellent vision and diagnostic instincts helped make up for this some but he must work on being quicker if he wants to be a top sack artist in the NFL.

Smith has a high motor and as I wrote earlier, he does pursue the ball well. However, he did have some plays where he stopped pursuing and watched the play when the ball went away from him. Smith may have been winded on those plays or given up thinking he was not able to make the tackle.

With the Redskins, Smith will be used to give both Trent Murphy and Ryan Kerrigan breaks at outside linebacker to keep them fresh. He will join them both on the field on passing downs often also. Smith may line up frequently at nose tackle to provide a quick interior rusher as he did at MSU.

Smith should be very effective shooting gaps

Smith should be very effective shooting gaps in defensive coordinator, Joe Barry’s one-gap style 3-4 defense. Although his quickness around the edge is not yet up to top NFL levels, Smith shows good speed when attacking directly at the quarterback through gaps. He will be an over-powering force against most running backs and force the passer from the pocket or make the sack once he breaks the line.

Smith looks like he will also be a great addition to special teams. He blocked two kicks at MSU in 2014. He may remind some fans of Lorenzo Alexander covering kicks as well.

Washington Redskins General Manager, Scot McCloughan, has set a tone in his first draft with the team by drafting big, physical and tough players with high motors and good character. When the team has enough good players all on the same page as McCloughan envisions, the Redskins will be a force again in the NFL.

Next: Reviewing Brandon Scherff