Mr. Smith Comes To Philadelphia

Posted: August 17th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 19 Comments »
Steve Smith ponders life

"I wonder if Tommy has been thinking about me recently?"

 

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about WR Steve Smith recently.  I was a big fan of his coming out of USC.  I’ve admired him in his time as a Giant.  All jokes aside, you learn to respect some of your enemies and Steve definitely fits that category.  So does Hakeem Nicks.  I eagerly await the day we’re able to pluck him away, but I digress.

The signing of Smith was odd.  He’s not a deep threat.  We have a vertical offense.  He’s coming off injury and isn’t guaranteed to be 100 percent to start the year.  That’s when we’re most likely to be vulnerable at WR.  So why add him?

I started thinking more and more about the Green Bay Packers.  What did they do?  The Packers spread teams out with Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones.  Those four guys combined for 20 catches in the Super Bowl.  Nelson led the way with 9.  The Packers had four good wideouts.  No one had four good corners to shut them down.

I think studying them impacted the fact we loaded up on defense.  We need a good set of CBs and DBs to deal with Green Bay.  I also think seeing how effective their offense was made Howie Roseman and Andy Reid consider adding another veteran receiver.

I think we had some flexibility.  Adding a big player like Plaxico Burress would have been nice in the Red Zone.  That didn’t work out so we got Smith.  He isn’t going to be a major Red Zone factor, but can be important in his own way.

We had four good WRs with DeSean, Maclin, Avant, and Cooper, but there’s one problem.  DeSean is definitely a perimeter player.  Maclin too.  Avant is made for the middle.  Cooper right now is best outside.  We needed someone else who could play the slot and work the middle.  We needed someone who could do the dirty work and help move the chains.  Enter Steve Smith.

DeSean and Maclin played in 30 games.  They combined for 15 catches over the middle of the field.  Smith had 10 such grabs in 9 games.

In his career Smith averages just 10.8 yards per reception.  The downside of that is he lacks speed and playmaking ability.  The upside is that he is willing to do the dirty work and is also good at it.  Smith knows his role.  He is very technically sound.  Smith knows how to get open.  He knows how to work in traffic.  He catches the ball well and isn’t going to shy away from contact.  DeSean and Maclin have no problem with focusing on outside routes and staying clear of the middle.

Last year teams knew that Avant was the one inside receiver that had to be shut down.  He caught 16 passes over the middle.  Take him away and then you force the Eagles to adapt.  Vick either has to find DeSean/Maclin outside or those guys have to work the middle.

That all changes now.  You can line up with Smith and Avant in the slot and DeSean and Maclin out wide.  That puts pressure on defenses to cover deep and to cover the middle.

My goal for the Eagles was to get a player who would help in the Red Zone.  Smith could do that.  Avant and Jackson combined for 2 Red Zone TDs last year.  Smith had 3.  Maclin had 7.  Smith isn’t a big guy, but remember that he’s at his best working on short routes and knows how to deal with tight coverage and traffic.  The Red Zone doesn’t take away his deep speed.  He doesn’t have any.

I like the fact the Eagles got someone who can help sustain drives.  The offense last year led the NFL in plays of 20 or more yards.  The offense had a bunch of short scoring drives and delivered all kinds of highlight moments.  What the unit lacked was the ability to consistently sustain drives. The addition of Smith doesn’t guarantee improvement, but he gives Mike Vick the kind of weapon he needed – another receiver who will thrive in the middle and on 3rd downs.

* * * * *

Andy Reid said on his radio show the other night that Smith might well be back in the first couple of weeks of the season.  You don’t want to rush Smith and have him come back too early, but the sooner he’s able to play, the better.

* * * * *

Stats at ESPN.com (forgive the blue uniform)

Here is my ScoutsNotebook write-up on Smith:

Has okay size. Compact build. Very productive. Works to get open. Shows a good feel for how to get open. Plays the Z. Will work the middle. Can adjust to the ball. Runs pretty well. Good hands. Plucks the ball away from his body. Can take a hit. Very effective when he comes in motion and then releases. Gets open by play design quite a bit. Good feet. Has some RAC ability. Catches a lot of passes across the middle. Used a very good out ‘n up move to get wide open vs Michigan. The ball was underthrown and the FS broke up the pass. Will cut block DBs. Runs good routes and seems to get the subtleties of playing WR. Will block LBs. Isn’t a good blocker, but doesn’t shy away from contact. Will remind you of former Trojan WR Keary Colbert. Had an amazing game vs Oregon State this year. Caught 11 passes for 258 yds and 2 TDs. Ran a 4.44 at the Combine. Looked good in drills.

SUMMARY

If you’re looking for a dynamic playmaker, Steve isn’t the guy. If you want a skilled, polished receiver who knows how to get open and catches the ball really well, Steve is your guy. He is fast enough to give you some big plays, but isn’t a homerun hitter. Could develop into an excellent #2 receiver in the NFL. Should be a 2nd Rd’er.


  • http://igglesblitz.com Tommy Lawlor

    Jay Glazer has an interview with Jeremy Maclin. Everything is okay. Cancer was concern, but has been ruled out. Had procedure done last week on his lymphs. Will be cleared to play when that is healed.

    I’ll post link to Glazer article when it’s up.

  • http://igglesblitz.com Sam

    Good stuff here, Tommy. My question, though, is why don’t you think Riley Cooper is an inside guy? Is that just willingness or is it skill set?

  • http://igglesblitz.com Tommy Lawlor

    I think Riley can be an excellent inside receiver over time. Remember that he only played a lot late in his career at Florida. They ran simple offense. Last year he was mainly on the outside.

    Compare that to a guy like Jordy Nelson who is also a big guy with some athletic ability. Jordy caught 206 career passes at KSU. Cooper caught 81 (51 as Senior). Nelson was a more skilled player. Cooper was a big guy with ability.

    As Cooper learns how to play WR, he can become really good because of his size, strength, and toughness. I’m really high on him. Lots of potential.

  • http://Website RogerPodacter

    i think there is a typo here. did you mean Avant in the second paragraph?

    DeSean and Maclin played in 30 games. They combined for 15 catches over the middle of the field…

    Last year teams knew that Maclin was the one inside receiver that had to be shut down. He caught 16 passes over the middle…

  • http://igglesblitz.com Tommy Lawlor

    Yes. Fixed the typo.

    I tried to get this column up quickly and made a few typos. Hopefully it’s all clean now.

  • http://Website Izzylangfan

    The NFL fined Suh $20,000. This is just another example of how mealy mouthed Roger Godell is. This is the third violation for Suh who said he will continue to play the same way. Nothing will change until players get suspended for inappropriate violence. If Roger was really interested in change he would do something about it.

  • http://www.draftcountdown.com Morton

    Boy, it sure would be nice to see Smith come back early in the season and contribute, but with microfracture surgery, it’s incredibly tough to return to form any earlier than 1.5 years or so, at least.

    On that front, have you heard anything about B. Graham? How is his status? Are coaches hopeful at all that he could contribute this season, Tommy?

  • http://Website Ryan

    It seems like in your justification for signing Smith you are leaving out one player.

    Brent Celek.

    My point being…how often are we going to be playing 4 wides with no TE to help chip or block?

    I think the TE is generally a potentially answer over the middle as well if teams focus on your slot receiver

    After hearing the details about the Maclin situation, I think Smith was brought in for insurance. I am sure the Eagles were concerned about Jeremys situation and had to plan for the worst.

    Now that Maclin is fine…the Eagles will now look for a way to make these 4-5 guys work.

    It’s a nice luxury to have, that’s for sure and at least there is absolutely no reason to rush Smith back now.

  • http://Website CVD

    this is great news. i was starting to feel like we wouldnt have him till half way through the season. but we need our oline to get settled for anything to work

    i hope smith comes back soon, if he plays before game 6 (and doesnt get reinjured) i would say that is great.

    maybe siging him shows we will start moving the chains a little more and not always go for the homerun. i would love to play more like that and then hit the homerun when they arent expcting it. D’s were just keeping their safties way back last year, we absolutley have to punish them for that

    someone else said this here last week and they were dead right, Jason Peters is the one guy we cannot have go down with an injury right now. Other than Vick of course

  • http://Website Flyin’
  • http://Website Austinfan

    Some notes:

    Burress is grossly overrated as a red zone threat, his career high was 6 red zone TDs, Maclin had 7 last year, Smith had 3 in half a season and 5 in 2009. You catch TDs in the red zone by getting separation, not by being taller than everyone else. There are lots of big TEs, but only Antonio Gates has ever had double figures in red zone TDs.

    Smith ran a 4.44, that’s as fast as Maclin, and he had great cone and short shuttle drills, the guy gets open quickly in short areas, is it that he just lacks a second gear or maybe it’s just the way the Giants employed him? Nicks and Manningham lack the skills to play in the slot, and don’t have reliable hands. So it made sense to leave them outside and put Smith in the slot.

    As far as microfacture surgery, don’t confuse it with combination surgery where there’s both ligament repair and microfracture (Graham, who should go on IR this year), Reid said there was no damage to the ligaments – question is why didn’t the Giants try harder to keep him (other than their GM is a doofus).

  • http://www.draftcountdown.com Morton

    Austinfan: Good point about the difference in Smith’s microfracture surgery and Graham’s.

    In your opinion, is there basically no way for Graham to be productive at any point this season? Say, even past Week 10?

  • http://Website Austinfan

    Graham could come back, but if they start the season with 10 DL, which is likely, given Cole, Babin, Tapp, and probably Hunt and Teo unless one of them flops, why rush Graham back this year? You have him on PUP, IF he’s 100% OR there’s a plague of injuries you can activate him in week 10, otherwise get him healthy for 2012.

  • http://igglesblitz.com Tommy Lawlor

    FWIW…Spadaro says that Graham has looked surprisingly good in his conditioning and stretching drills. He will start on the PUP list. I think they’ll only bring him back if we need him.

    Why risk it? Eagles want Graham to have a good career, not just help us for 8-10 games. Take it slow.

  • http://igglesblitz.com Tommy Lawlor

    @ Ryan…

    Of course I didn’t forget about Celek.

    I made the point in the column about using 4 WRs for a specific reason. Creates mismatch problems for defense. 3 WRs and a TE is easier matchup for D.

    I expect Brent to have a good year, but I don’t see him catching 65 or 75 passes. We’ll mix things up and be as multiple as possible.

  • http://Website Stephen

    I think you hit the nail on the head Tommy when you talk about Steve Smith being the guy who can help us become a more consisten offense rather than boom or bust. Smith is a real real good route runner from what I’ve watched of him, and he can get open in small spaces, so I think he could absolutely kill it in that niche in our offense.

    Plus he gives great depth, I can’t even remember the last time this team has had the kind of depth it does this year. Seems like theres a couple of positions where we’re absolutely stacked. Jackson-Maclin-Avant-Smith? That stuff is bananas man.

  • http://Website makarov__

    @Ryan

    I’ll add to what Tommy said about Celek and TEs. One thing you might notice watching Eagles film is where Jason Avant lines up on some plays, the TE spot. He is a reasonably effective chip blocker, and I’ve even seen him block as a second TE on short yardage running plays.

    An offensive look you’ll see this season if everyone is healthy:

    Vick shotgun, empty backfield
    Celek and Avant lined up as TEs
    Smith in slot
    Jackson wide right
    Maclin wide left

    Defense better hope they have a dime package in, or they are getting burned.

  • http://Website Kevin (RC)

    @makarov
    You’re asking for a blitz in that situation. It won’t work on 3rd and long unless a quick slant to a WR makes a DB miss in space.

    I just don’t see how Riley Cooper sees the field this season, barring injury.

  • http://Website TN

    One thing I haven’t seen mentioned since the smith signing is how enamored the FO was with him when he came out in the draft. They strongly considered him with their first round pick, I recall.