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Smith Settling In ..

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  • Smith Settling In ..

    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 Sam Bradford was dropped 34 times.

    From the start, it was said Smith would need some work in pass protection, which is part of the reason that he was moved to the right side in the first place. That progress became more apparent as last season went on.

    “Two years into it now playing right tackle and that’s where my team needs me and wants me,” Smith said. “That’s where I am expected to play. It’s awesome.”

    When Smith entered the league, he had a reputation for being a nasty run blocker capable of opening big holes. But Smith’s adjustment has taken some time and though he’s proved to be adept as a run blocker at times, he says he’d like to be more consistent.

    The addition of Harvey Dahl at right guard should help in that area. Dahl is known for his nasty disposition on the field and Smith says he can’t help but feel that attitude is infectious and going to help him be the hard-charging run blocker everyone though he could be.

    “Getting an opportunity to play to the right of Jason Brown and Harvey Dahl they brought in has been big,” Smith said. “Harvey Dahl is a mauler and I really enjoy playing beside him.”

    Smith and his linemates cleared holes in the preseason opener against Indianapolis but took a step back against Tennessee last week. Spagnuolo says Smith has been hard on himself in evaluations and believes that will drive him to continue to get better.

    “I think he is improving,” Spagnuolo said. “That’s just because I think he’s at the point where he expects a lot of himself. But I think he is doing a solid job over there at right tackle.”

    Smith says the change in offensive coordinators to Josh McDaniels hasn’t required him to do too much different though it’s clear that the ability to pass block longer is going to be necessary in certain down field passing situations.

    There’s nothing Smith is ignoring in his daily work to make improvements to his game, including staying in the new playbook and studying film more vigorously.

    “I know what to do, where to go, the offense is different but the coaches make it real simple and make it to where you can play fast,” Smith said. “For me as an individual, I just want to be sound and be a productive football player and do my part. I want to be effective in the pass game and a good run blocker.”

  • #2
    Re: Smith Settling In ..

    I am glad things are looking up for him from the playing perspective, but it kind of hurts that we are paying him #2 overall and LT money to play RT.
    This space for rent...


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    • 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, 08:23 PM
    • 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, 09:47 PM
    • RamFan_Til_I_Die
      Smith takes his tasks seriously
      by RamFan_Til_I_Die
      Smith takes his tasks seriously

      By Jim Thomas

      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, 08:30 AM
    • r8rh8rmike
      Rams' Jason Smith Returns Healthy
      by r8rh8rmike
      Rams' Jason Smith returns healthy

      Friday, April 20, 2012

      Jason Smith feels great. He's happy. He's excited. And he's back on the football field.

      He can see clearly now, literally. He has full range of motion in his neck. He can turn fully from side to side. He can drive himself to work or the store.

      That wasn't the case following a nasty concussion he suffered Oct. 23 in Dallas attempting to tackle Cowboys safety Abram Elam as Elam was returning a lost fumble by Cadillac Williams.

      It was the second major concussion of Smith's three-year NFL career. He was done for the season, and some wondered if he was done for his career. At the very least, some wondered if he would be back with the Rams, who had chosen him No. 2 overall in the 2009 draft.

      "The reality was, it was a freakish accident," Smith said. "But the great thing is: What is it now? It's just the past. It's something I had to go through. I'm excited to be back walking. Feeling good. Wife not having to drive me around. There's a lot of things I'm just excited about."

      The entire process tested his religious faith, and at the same time strengthened that faith.

      "That's what it's supposed to do," Smith said. "Affliction is supposed to make you stronger. If it makes you weaker there's something wrong with you. So it made me stronger."

      So Smith is excited about the new regime at Rams Park, from general manager Les Snead, to head coach Jeff Fisher, to his new offensive line coach Paul Boudreau. He likes the positive energy of new tight end Matt Mulligan and the savvy of new center Scott Wells. He likes the leadership being shown by running back Steven Jackson and quarterback Sam Bradford.

      "I'm happy they decided to keep me around," Smith said. "So I'm a new face. I'm a new type of guy here."

      Who knows what the draft will bring, and what that could mean to Smith. What if Matt Kalil of Southern California drops to the Rams at No. 6 overall? What if there's an offensive tackle in a later round the team feels compelled to take?

      But for now it looks likes Smith is out of the woods in terms of remaining a Ram. He's approaching this opportunity with a clear head — physically and mentally — and a new lease on life.

      "I have a new outlook on life by faith," Smith said. "Write that. I'm so happy. It's hard to explain."

      Smith not only wants to be a better player, he says he needs to be a better teammate.

      "I want to work on my relationship with the players to become a better teammate, a better friend in some areas," Smith said. "I need to be more fluid and relaxed. I need to relax and play ball, and stop thinking. There's no reason for anyone to walk around stuck-up...
      -04-20-2012, 09:06 AM
    • r8rh8rmike
      Jason Smith Has Up, Down NFL Debut
      by r8rh8rmike
      Jason Smith has up, down NFL debut

      Jason Smith got a little bit of everything as an NFL rookie. But too much of injuries.

      Smith returned to practice this week but won't play in Sunday's season finale against San Francisco. After missing five games because of a concussion, a week's worth of practice simply isn't enough to get game ready.

      So when all is said and done, the rookie offensive tackle from Baylor will have played in only eight games this season, with five starts.

      At age 23, he already has learned a valuable lesson about his profession. Namely ...

      "Don't take the season, and playing football, for granted," Smith said. "Obviously, there's a lot of people that wish they were able to wake up every morning, let alone be able to play football. At the end of the day, I'm just happy I was able to wake up and be a part of this team."

      That is Smith's rather unorthodox way of saying he's just happy to be alive.

      Although Smith was the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, nothing was handed to him by coach Steve Spagnuolo. Smith didn't move into the starting lineup until just before the regular-season opener.

      Certainly nothing was handed to him once the games started. In the season opener, against the Seahawks, Seattle rookie linebacker Aaron Curry came at Smith's knees low and late downfield after a run by Steven Jackson early in the first quarter. Those are the kinds of plays that can lead to blown-out knees. But Smith was OK, and Curry was fined by the NFL.

      Smith also gave up a sack to Lawrence Jackson in that game, and another — to Dwight Freeney — six weeks later against Indianapolis.

      But there were plenty of high spots. In Game 2, against Washington, a block by Smith sealed the edge on a 58-yard run by Jackson — his longest gain of the year. The play set up the Rams' first touchdown of the season and gave them their first lead of the season.

      In the first Arizona game, on Nov. 22, blocks by Smith and tight end Randy McMichael helped spring Jackson on a 48-yard run that set up a Rams field goal.

      The gain put Jackson over 1,000 yards for a franchise-record fifth consecutive season.

      But for every step forward this season, Smith seemed to take one back.

      Less than 1˝ games into his NFL career, Smith suffered a knee injury before halftime of the Washington game.

      He missed the next two games entirely because of the injury then rotated in for three contests before regaining his starting job in Game 8, against Detroit. He flashed his aggressive run-blocking skills against the Lions and was solid in pass protection as well in a 17-10 Rams victory.

      Following the bye, he also started and played well in the next two games.
      -01-01-2010, 11:16 PM