Steve: Can Will Restore The Thrill?
At the end of last season many analysts felt like it was the end of the line for Will Smith in black and gold due to his age, decreased production and inflated salary; but after renegotiating his contract to stay in New Orleans he enters 2013 right where he's always been... well, expect on the field.
After playing 9 seasons at defensive end in the NFL for the Saints, "Big Will" is moving to outside linebacker in new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's 3-4 scheme.
"I have been in a lot of different systems throughout my career and had a lot of different defensive coaches, different styles, and different ways of going about things," Smith said. "I'm pretty adaptable to different things and adjusting to different things, so I didn't think it would be that much of a challenge. I'm still rushing the passer. I'm still doing the same things I've always done. It just puts me in a better position than I was in last year."
While the pass rushing aspect will remain the same for Smith, now having to drop back into coverage is a responsibility that he doesn't think will be an added burden.
"Just watch the games from last year. I dropped back a bunch of times when I had to cover tight ends and a couple of receivers," says Smith. "It's not something that I'm not familiar with, but I just haven't done it on a consistent basis. I did it earlier, when I first got here about nine years ago with Jim Haslett. He kind of went away from it, and then it came back. It's just something that I kind of need to get used to doing. I don't think it will be that difficult. I've played this base before."
At age 31 though, Smith isn't the same pass rusher. So how in the world is he going to be able to hang in coverage with tight ends, wide receivers and running backs? Is this experiment doomed for failure?
We will find out more once the players are in full pads in training camp, but it's hard for me to imagine that guys like Junior Galette, Martez Wilson and Victor Butler aren't better suited to fill the role on this team. All of them are younger, and you could say more talented at this stage of their respective careers.
(Photo by Chris Bennett)