Updated: Eric Smith, stealth Safety
Eric Smith could not have felt all that secure after Rex Ryan was hired. The former Baltimore defensive coordinator started bring in his guys, including S Jim Leonhard. Then Ryan started stocking the defense backs with familiar talent like CB Lito Sheppard and CB Donald Strickland.
Getting crowded in the backfield.
Smith was playing with the second team during the Jets mandatory minicamp two weeks ago when, over the course of three days, he nabbed five interceptions. The last one was a goofy ball popped up by James Ihedigbo (aka Diggs), which came down within Smith’s grasp.
“I feel 10 times better going from the first minicamp and trying to learn everything,” Smith said. “I was feeling like I was playing real slow and not up to my ability. Now, I’m pretty comfortable with the defense. I feel like I am playing a lot faster and as a result; making more plays.”
Smith got Ryan’s attention, and kept it when he hurt his hamstring after that last play.
“Ed Reed, that’s what it reminded me of,” Ryan said “But, he’s really pushing. He really is. When you look at it on paper, you’ve got Jim Leonhard and Kerry Rhodes. That’s a heck of a safety combination. We also have Ihedigbo and Eric Smith.”
[Update, Thurs. a.m.: Just communicated with Smith, who is staying in town for treatment on the hamstring, and he said it was feeling much better now.]
Smith might be best known — or is that notorious? — for a collision with Anquan Boldin last season which left both with concussions. Smith was the one fined by the league, however, for what was deemed a dangerous hit. He always contended that Boldin’s trajectory was changed once both were in the air, and Smith couldn’t have avoided the contact at that point. That was what he gleaned from the replay, because Smith had no memory of the actual collision.
But once training camp starts next month, Smith, 26, will have a fresh start with a coach who clearly likes players who can reach up and snare an interception. Or five.