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  • Smith Seems Right On Target

    Smith seems right on target

    BY JIM THOMAS
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    09/06/2009

    Lofty draft status notwithstanding, Jason Smith was told from the outset that nothing would be handed to him in St. Louis. A lot of steps needed to be taken before the offensive tackle from Baylor would find himself at the doorstep of the Rams' starting lineup.

    "You focus on each step, one at a time," Smith explained. "And one day you hit the door right in the head. One day, I'll run right through the door. ... Bow! Right through the door."

    Just in time for the regular season, it looks like Smith is poised to knock that door down. But coach Steve Spagnuolo isn't ready to tip his hand — not just yet.

    "Between Sunday and Monday we'll have that wrapped up," Spagnuolo said Friday. "Sometimes you just get thrown in the fire before you're actually ready. And we'll decide whether we're going to go that route or put other guys in there."

    Smith might not be totally ready for the right tackle position in the NFL, but it's not like he

    embarrassed himself in the preseason, either. Sure he's had a few rough plays, including one early in the Kansas City game when Tamba Hali beat him around the edge for a pressure on quarterback Kyle Boller.

    But he hasn't given up a sack this preseason and has steadily improved over the course of exhibition play.

    "We know he struggled on that one play (against Kansas City). I mean, that's quite obvious," Spagnuolo said. "But you did see the aggressive offensive tackle that we watched on Baylor tape. He played with a little bit more confidence, I thought. And I thought as the game went on he got better and better."

    Spagnuolo has been decidedly old-school when it comes to anointing rookies. Both Smith and second-rounder James Laurinaitis spent all spring and summer on the second units despite glaring needs at both tackle and middle linebacker. It's as if they still had to earn their starting berths in Spagnuolo's eyes.

    "Every situation's different, every player's different, every team's different," Spagnuolo said. "But in this particular case, I think there's something to that. I don't think you just hand things over. I don't have children, but I mean, you start spoiling them (and) they tend not to be as hungry.

    "But James did a nice job and deserved to get in there when he did. Jason's time will come."

    Almost certainly sooner rather than later.

    "SKY'S THE LIMIT"

    There's probably no better judge of line play — in St. Louis or anywhere else for that matter — than longtime NFL offensive line coach Jim Hanifan. Now retired, but part of the Rams radio broadcast team, Hanifan has been a Smith fan since before the draft.

    "This youngster's got the temperament, and he's got the passion, and he's bright," Hanifan said. "This guy's got it all. ... He really wants to be good. When you have a youngster like that, the sky's the limit. I would love to have been (coaching) with him for a few years."

    There are almost always footwork issues with young linemen, but those can be coached. Another critical element, Hanifan says, is whether a lineman is a "knee-bender." In other words, can he get low enough to gain a leverage advantage over a defensive lineman; low enough to move?

    "If you can't bend your knees, you can't move," Hanifan said. "You don't have quickness."

    In Hanifan's experience that can't be coached — you either have it or you don't.

    So is Smith a "knee-bender" at 6 feet 5 inches tall?

    "Oh yeah," Hanifan said. "Excellent."

    But there's a lot more that goes into playing tackle in the NFL. For starters, Smith is learning an NFL playbook, complete with the myriad pass protections and line calls. Any technique issues are compounded because Smith didn't play in a three-point stance in college at Baylor.

    And he hasn't been a right tackle since his sophomore year. The switch from the left side to right can't be understated. Some say it's like trying to write righthanded after being a lefty most of your life. It takes awhile.

    SWITCHING SIDES

    The poster child for switching sides in recent NFL draft history is Carolina Pro Bowler Jordan Gross. The No. 8 overall pick out of Utah in 2003, Gross played right tackle as a rookie, left tackle in '04, went back to right in '05, back to left in '06, and back to right in '07. He has been at left tackle since the start of the '08 campaign, and finally seems entrenched there.

    "I was fortunate enough in college to play on both sides, so I was pretty familiar with the switch," Gross told the Post-Dispatch. "In the NFL, there is a huge learning curve anyway, so it didn't matter whether I was playing on the right side or the left. It was going to be hard either way."

    Conventional wisdom says the best pass rushers play over the left tackle, but that isn't necessarily the case.

    "I think there are great 'D-ends' on both sides of the ball," Gross said. "(Michael) Strahan was a dominant pass rusher, and Leonard Little from St. Louis does a nice job as well."

    Both are left ends.

    A LITTLE HELP

    Little has 81 career sacks, the most for any Rams player since the franchise moved to St. Louis in 1995. Smith has seen Little's pass-rush moves first-hand on the practice field, frequently getting the worst of it during "team" periods or one-on-one drills. For a week or so in early to mid-August, Little had Smith's head spinning with an array of moves ... speed, power, inside, outside. But Little has tried to give Smith pointers along the way.

    "That's my job," Little said. "I've been in the league for a while now. I know the team needs him. If we didn't need him, we wouldn't have picked him with the second pick in the draft. So I'm going to try to help him out the best way I can."

    Whether the Rams need Smith to start on opening day will be determined very soon.

    "I don't make any of those decisions," Smith said. "I just show up to work."

    He then added with a laugh, "I don't feel I've earned anything yet except that meal they're probably going to give us, that everybody (on the team) gets. ... So whether it's playing left tackle, left guard, or serving water, I'm going to do whatever I can do to help the team."

  • #2
    Re: Smith Seems Right On Target

    I love this kid. He's got the right attitude. I don't know about you guys, but he will probably serve us better than Goldberg will...

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Smith Seems Right On Target

      J-Smooth is coming along rather nicely!
      sigpic

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Smith Seems Right On Target

        I'd still expect some rookie mistakes, but he should be solid when plugged in whenever he starts.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Smith Seems Right On Target

          I doubt he is going to make a mistake which gets Bulger killed. He might commit a few false starts, a few holds or fail on a few blocks, but i dont think having him on the field is going to be a liability.

          So in my mind i see no reason not to play him. He certainly isnt going to be worse than Goldberg at RT
          @EssexRam_

          Comment

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          • RamFan_Til_I_Die
            Smith takes his tasks seriously
            by RamFan_Til_I_Die
            Smith takes his tasks seriously

            By Jim Thomas
            ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
            06/07/2009

            It has been six weeks since the Rams made Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft. For most of the past five weeks, he has been plying his trade at Rams Park, in the weight room, the meeting room, and on the practice field.

            So when asked if he's settled in yet — to St. Louis, and to life at Rams Park — Smith answers with the world view of a 22-year-old.

            "Yeah, I'm settled in," Smith replied. "I'm over at the Holiday Inn right now. The bed's made up every day. The air conditioning's cold. I don't have any bills coming in. I'm loving it.

            So far, NFL life is good for Smith, a 306-pound bundle of energy and optimism. When asked if he eventually will buy a place in St. Louis, Smith replied: "I'm thinking about buying a Holiday Inn, you know what I mean? And just living there."

            Once he signs his first NFL contract — and there's little taking place on that front yet — Smith should have enough money to buy a hotel. For now, he's going about the business of earning his keep on the football field.

            "Jason's doing great," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "We've had a chance to work him on both sides, and he's a guy that's going to be a real good player. He's working hard, he's developing, and we're looking forward to see how it carries over to training camp."

            After spending his first month at right tackle, which remains his likely destination on opening day, Smith was shifted to left tackle this past week. Should something happen to Alex Barron on the left side, Smith could be the Rams' next option there during the regular season.

            "We're going to try to have some versatility at tackle," coach Steve Spagnuolo said.

            It's difficult to make broad assumptions in the spring, particularly with linemen, because there is next to no contact during OTAs (organized team activities) and minicamps, and the players aren't in full pads. But Spagnuolo already has seen enough of Smith to conclude that he has the mental makeup and approach to become a successful NFL blocker.

            "He doesn't blink at all when he goes on either side (of the line), or we give him something new," Spagnuolo said. "He's a tremendous worker, and a respectful guy. He gets it. That's the best thing I can say is he gets it."

            Some players never get it. But Smith seems to realize that the small things, the details, the technique work can turn decent players into good ones, and good players into great ones in the NFL.

            "That's one thing I've learned about this level is that it's a lot of small details that you don't really know much about until you get here," Smith said. "Football's a game that...
            -06-07-2009, 09:30 AM
          • r8rh8rmike
            Smith Learning The Ropes
            by r8rh8rmike
            Smith Learning the Ropes
            Saturday, June 6, 2009

            By Nick Wagoner
            Senior Writer

            Jason Smith earned his recreation and leisure studies degree from Baylor in May of 2008. But make no mistake, his education is ongoing.

            In the whirlwind that is the buildup to the NFL Draft, including the scouting combine, the senior bowl and countless pro days, rare is the opportunity for a young player to come up for air.

            And once the player is draft, it doesn’t get any easier. Nobody knows that better than Smith, who along with his Rams teammates, is now just six organized team activities away from finally putting a cap on his first NFL offseason.

            In Smith’s case, part of the education that’s occurring on the field and in the meeting rooms is coming from a somewhat unlikely source: his competition.

            While Smith is getting plenty of help from the coaching staff and other linemen, Adam Goldberg, the player who Smith will likely eventually replace in the starting lineup at right tackle, has been among Smith’s most ardent supporters.

            Goldberg, who is well respected by teammates and coaches for his tremendous work ethic and intelligence, has left no stone unturned in helping Smith develop.

            “A lot of the things are just linemen stuff – the balancing and knowing the playbook as far as different protections,” Smith said. “Three-step, Five-step. Quick sets, drop sets. A lot of stuff. And Goldberg is helping me understand everything.”

            “I know that Adam Goldberg’s a great guy. He’s a great leader on and off the field. He talks to all us rookies about things we need to know as far as being productive and staying on the good side of the coaches.”

            As the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft, there’s a certain amount of expectations that have long since been heaped on Smith’s shoulders. That’s high end real estate to take any player and offensive tackles selected that high have names like Pace, Ogden and Jones.

            Those players were so talented and polished that the teams drafting them immediately inserted them into the starting lineup and left them on an island to tango with some of the best pass rushers the league had to offer.

            So far, at least, it doesn’t appear that approach will be duplicated with Smith. In the organized team activities and pair of minicamps Smith has participated in, he’s worked exclusively with the second team.

            That’s part of a philosophy coach Steve Spagnuolo believes in as far as not throwing rookies into the fire before they’re ready and one that Smith completely understands.

            “That’s football,” Smith said. “Nothing’s given to you when you’re on the football field. The great thing about being an offensive lineman is I understand that. There’s a lot of work that has to be done in order for me to, No. 1, be a part of this team. And then...
            -06-06-2009, 10:47 PM
          • MauiRam
            Smith Settling In ..
            by MauiRam
            By Nick Wagoner/Senior Writer

            Entering his third year in the NFL, Rams tackle Jason Smith has moved well beyond the expectations set for him by those outside of the team.

            Smith says his full attention is dedicated not to meeting some sort of lofty expectations that are inherent with his draft status. Rather, Smith is aiming only to meet the goals he sets for himself and meet the needs of the team.

            “It’s one of those deals where other people make a scenario up for you,” Smith said. “But for me, I just look at it the same; it’s football and I want to be the best I can be at it.”

            There have been plenty of ups and downs in Smith’s relatively short career but many believe that the third year is the time for a player to make his move.

            In this training camp, the coaching staff has been pleased with Smith’s progress, especially considering that though his media guide bio says he’s in his third year, he’s really only working with about a year and a half of experience.

            It’s helped that Smith has been able to settle in at the right tackle spot where he’s been tasked with facing one of the league’s emerging pass rushers in Chris Long every day in practice.

            Long has been one of the Rams’ best players in camp according to coach Steve Spagnuolo and he’s pushed Smith to improve his pass protection.

            “You are playing a position and playing a game and the more you are doing it, the more comfortable you are getting, the more patience you are gaining, the more ability you have to do your job,” Smith said. “And I am going against Chris Long every day. This guy is a workhorse and I feel like I have become a better tackle going against him and understanding what I’m doing.”

            Taken with the second overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, Smith was expected to step right in and dominate as a left tackle. That’s the job most view as commensurate with being selected that high and made even more difficult for Smith by those expecting him to be the next Orlando Pace.

            Smith’s rookie season was derailed by injuries, though, including an early season knee injury and a concussion that ended his season. All told, he played just eight games with five starts and just when it appeared he was settling in, he suffered the concussion.

            “Obviously I have had some stumbling blocks in my career with a couple of injuries here and there but I trained and feel like I had a great offseason,” Smith said. “I am sound in my faith in God and I don’t see myself wavering from anything I know to do.”

            Finally able to get on the field and stay there in 2010, Smith made strides as he settled in on the right side with then-rookie Rodger Saffold on the left.

            In 15 games (he missed one with a concussion issue), Smith allowed four sacks according to STATSPASS as the Rams trimmed their total sacks allowed by 10 as quarterback...
            -08-22-2011, 01:32 PM
          • r8rh8rmike
            Smith Progressing Well
            by r8rh8rmike
            Smith Progressing Well
            Tuesday, August 18, 2009


            By Nick Wagoner
            Senior Writer

            After almost every practice since the Rams made him the No. 2 pick in this year’s NFL Draft, Jason Smith can be found out on the practice field doing two things.

            First and foremost, Smith has made a habit of staying after practice to work with offensive line coaches Art Valero and Steve Loney on something he feels needed improvement from the just-completed workout.

            When that is done, about 20 minutes later, Smith can be found hauling around the pads of his veteran teammates.

            “It’s what I am but I am not doing it just to be doing it,” Smith said. “It’s something that I need to work on that day technically or physically. There’s always something to work on.”

            Such is the life of a rookie in the NFL. And while those parts of it are normal, Smith’s approach to the game is anything but.

            The Rams completed their final two a day practice of this year’s training camp on Tuesday afternoon. With that, the team is almost halfway through the preseason and Smith’s development process is in full swing.

            From the moment he arrived in St. Louis, plenty of people have placed some weighty expectations on Smith but the coaching staff has ignored that and asked Smith to earn his position.

            Until Tuesday, Smith had extremely limited repetitions with the first team offense as he has worked almost exclusively as the second-team right tackle behind Adam Goldberg.

            Nothing has been handed to him and Smith has asked for nothing in return. Instead, Smith is lapping up every opportunity to learn the game from his veteran teammates.

            Nary a player has been more helpful in that regard than Goldberg. Although Goldberg and Smith are technically competing for the job at right tackle, neither seems too concerned with beating out the other.

            Quite the opposite, in fact.

            “I take that as part of my role but I tell you what, he doesn’t need too many tips,” Goldberg said. “He’s going to be a really good football player and he’s a great person too, the kind of guy that you like to help out because he works hard, doesn’t take anything for granted, takes good notes, asks good questions. So he’s the type of young player that you want to help and want to see succeed.”

            The modest Goldberg won’t take much credit for helping Smith learn the nuances of the NFL but Smith is quick to credit Goldberg for stepping into the mentor role.

            “I feel that if Goldberg wasn’t here I would have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off,” Smith said. “What is the competition? The competition is Rams vs. whoever we play. It’s not amongst each other. Obviously we are going to make each other better by communicating things we see but if he wasn’t here, how far along would I...
            -08-18-2009, 09:23 PM
          • MauiRam
            Rams' Smith getting more reps with first team ..
            by MauiRam
            BY JIM THOMAS
            Wednesday, August 11, 2010 12:00 am

            There's still a long way to go before the regular season — 4˝ weeks to be exact. But Jason Smith took another step toward being in the opening day lineup Tuesday at Rams Park.

            For the first time in training camp, Smith worked with the starting offensive unit during 11-on-11 — or "team" — drills. In fact, he was in with the No. 1 offense for all but the final team period Tuesday afternoon.

            "It felt great," Smith said. "Just being with the other guys, being with Goldie (Adam Goldberg), and being with Hank (Fraley) and Jason Brown. ... And the new guy, Rodger (Saffold). I'm just really excited I was in the huddle with those guys."

            As such it was another milepost for Smith — the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 draft — on the road back from a fractured toe in early June.

            For his part, coach Steve Spagnuolo downplayed Smith's workload.

            "It's a day-to-day thing," Spagnuolo said.

            He pointed out that the Rams had only one practice on Tuesday making it easier for Smith to get extended work. He noted that the Rams spent half the practice in 'shells" — or light padding — which meant less contact.

            "Every day you get him a little bit more (involved), and then you find out how the foot responds," Spagnuolo said.

            But even Spagnuolo conceded it was good to see Smith progress to the point where he was working with the starters. (The move of Smith to right tackle seems to be all but a done deal, since that's where he was practicing Tuesday.)

            "I think it's good for those guys to all be working together, making calls with each other," Spagnuolo said. "We all need the reps."

            Well, not all the guys were in there working together. Even though Smith was back with the starters, left guard Jacob Bell remains sidelined with a stomach muscle injury. Goldberg — the Rams' Mr. Versatile — had been working at right tackle all camp in place of Smith. On Tuesday, he was in at left guard for Bell.

            Which means offensive line continuity continues to elude the Rams. Entering camp, it looked like the preferred starting line was Saffold at left tackle, Bell at left guard, Brown at center, Goldberg at right guard, and Smith at right tackle.

            But that group has yet to take one snap together in camp. When asked how many reps he had taken at right guard in camp, Goldberg responded: "Zero."

            But Goldberg added, "When that day comes, we'll be ready. Coach Loney and I have been doing this together for a long time. I think he knows what's he's going to get from me, and I know what I'm going to get from him. And he'll get me there."

            Steve Loney, the Rams' offensive line coach, is in his third season with Goldberg in St. Louis....
            -08-10-2010, 11:05 PM
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