It took some time for Garrison Smith to find his footing in the NFL after he went undrafted in 2014.
First he signed with the Dolphins, but he was cut during training camp and didn’t last a week on the practice squad. Then, he was signed by the Saints in November and cut in December. A few days later, the 49ers picked him up on their practice squad, where he would stay the rest of that season and the next season, too. The 49ers turned around and waived Smith in 2016 just before the season started, and this time the Seahawks picked him up.
Smith finally got a taste of playing time in a regular season game that year with the Seahawks, but his season ended in October when he landed on injured reserve with an oblique injury. Last season was the first time Smith was active for at least eight games. He still didn’t get a ton of playing time, and he still bounced around on their practice squad.
But Smith did play just enough to flash, showing off the skills that influenced the Falcons to sign him this offseason.
At 6’1 and listed at a hair under 300 pounds, Smith isn’t the most physically imposing defensive tackle you will ever see, but man, the guy does a great job of staying low and holding his ground when he plays the run. What he doesn’t have in size, he makes up for with effort as he is constantly working to try to get to the play.
Not only does he more than hold his own against the run, but Smith is also able to generate a pass rush on early downs. His lateral quickness for a man his size is impressive, and he knows how to work to an edge to try to get to the quarterback. I thought he did a good job of using his hands to try to escape off of blocks, as well.
As it happens, with Dontari Poe jumping ship to the Panthers after one year in Atlanta, the Falcons kind of have a need at defensive tackle right now. Especially one of the run-stopping variety. I believe Smith has the perfect opportunity to come in and make a big contribution on early downs this season and maybe even push for a starting job in Atlanta. Even if he ultimately isn’t the starter, if Smith can stay healthy he should be in the rotation all season.
And the more he plays, the more plays I expect Smith to make.
So far he has a grand total of 14 career tackles and no sacks in his first five seasons, so a breakout season for Smith wouldn’t take all that much. However, don’t be surprised if he ends up being an important part of the the Falcons’ defensive tackle rotation by the time this season is over.
Confidence Level: Moderate