Preston Smith was all over the place during the 24 snaps he played in the Redskins’ preseason game against the Bills. He had two tackles, one for a five-years loss. The second-year outside linebacker nearly got a sack of Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor but Taylor was able to get rid of the ball just before Smith hit him from the blindside.
The Redskins are looking for big things out of their 2015 second-round draft pick this year and it looks like they might get them. They are looking for him to come at the offense from more places than he did last year, when he led all NFL rookies with eight sacks.
The key for Smith? Comfort.
“I’m getting a lot more comfortable in my role this year,” said Smith. “My role is building up from last year. I'm comfortable in the playbook and I'm comfortable with what I've got to do. I just go out there and play the best I can.”
Among the new roles he is being asked to assume this year is dropping back in coverage from his outside linebacker spot more often. Most pass rushers would rather move forward but Smith seems to relish the opportunity to learn more and contribute more.
“I got a pick six this week in practice,” he said proudly. “I'm getting a lot more comfortable in my role dropping back. I've been working on it a lot more with Coach Manusky, what angles to take to take away a lot of good throws and increase the chance of getting interceptions.”
Smith’s interception came during a portion of practice that was closed to the media. Like a good teammate he wouldn’t say who threw it, other than to say it wasn’t starter Kirk Cousins.
Head coach Jay Gruden is always quick to praise Smith but he was particularly enthusiastic after the Bills game.
“So far he’s looked excellent. I felt him today on the sideline. I felt him on the edge. I felt in the backfield disrupting plays. He’s physical at the point of attack. He can drop in coverage which he hasn’t done a whole lot in his life. He’s been effective. We haven’t used him in all the areas we’re going to use him yet. I think there’s more things he can do. He’s a big, physical kid. He is more comfortable and more confident. Another one that is from year one to year two. That’s a big step and we expect big improvement.”
There’s that concept of being comfortable again.
“I’m trying my best to make my presence felt when I'm out there on the field,” said Smith when told of Gruden’s comments. “They know what side I'm they recognize where I am whether I'm standing up on the left side, on the right side in a three-point stance, or standing up in the middle, I want them to recognize my presence.”
It appears that as long as Smith stays comfortable we will all recognize his presence once the regular season starts.