With as deep as Jacksonville’s defensive line was last season, it was almost a given that at least one quality guy from its position group wouldn’t be active on Sundays. Maybe even more than one. Sure enough, Dawuane Smoot found himself inactive for the first half of last season.
He was finally able to see the field again, literally the game after the Jaguars traded away Dante Fowler Jr. to the Los Angeles Rams. Unfortunately, he still didn’t make much of an impact in those last eight games, as he only managed to get four tackles.
When I looked at the film, however, I saw the same guy last year that I had taken a liking to when he was a rookie the previous season. Hell, I didn’t have any clue who Smoot was before the 2017 season started, but he kept showing up when I watched the Jaguars’ tape throughout the season. Nothing flashy, per se, but he just played good, fundamental football and usually ended up where he was supposed to be on any given play.
I probably first noticed Smoot because he was just about a complete opposite of the freelancing Fowler.
Whereas Fowler might be hit or miss because he would take a lot of chances that might work out really good, or really bad, Smoot was the guy who did everything by the book consistently.
Of course, Smoot doesn’t have the kind of athleticism Fowler has, but a lot of coaches would rather have the player who they know will be where he is supposed to be play in and play out, over the guy who does his own thing from time to time.
It me, I’m coaches.
I will say Smoot wasn’t just a robot out there, though. The guy made 20 tackles as a rookie, and he really held up well against the run. Compared to some of the other guys on the Jags’ defensive line, Smoot had a long way to go as a pass rusher, but he did flash every now and then. And I also loved the way he hustled to the football as well. He really looked like he had a ton of potential.
After watching his film from last year, I feel like he still does.
Smoot is just a good football player. You can tell he understands the game.
He plays under control and he recognizes blocking schemes and where he needs to go to take care of his responsibilities. I was really impressed with his techniques taking on the run last season. Smoot was able to get push out on the edges; he just didn’t get a lot of opportunities to get in on tackles.
He also showed maturity as a pass rusher, working to keep offensive linemen’s hands off of him as well as staying on an edge of the blocker. Smoot used power rushes quite frequently, and I believe he continued to improve on those as the season went on. He isn’t that big at 6’3 and 264 pounds, but he got push on offensive tackles off his bull rushes and long arms on a pretty consistent basis. And I liked the fact that he kept his arms fully extended so that he could easily come off the block once the offensive tackles finally dug in their heels on those power rushes.
That may come in handy after Malik Jackson’s departure to the Eagles.
This season, Smoot may get some opportunities to pass rush inside.
Sight unseen, I think this would be a great move for Smoot. He also plays physical all of the time, and his level of athleticism may line up more with rushing the passer from a three-technique alignment, rather than as an edge rusher.
I believe he can be a big-time contributor on early downs. Calais Campbell is a beast period, but the guy will be 33 this season. It would make sense to me to save Campbell for more passing situations and let a young guy like Smoot get in there and bang around playing the run. I’m not saying it will happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.
And that would be pretty much the perfect scenario for Smoot. There is no doubt he plays the hell out of the run and his production could shoot up if he played a lot on early downs this season. And he would still be able to rotate in on passing downs from time to time and get busy in there as well.
I definitely think he should get his first sack of his career this season, and then a few more after that one as well.
The problem with projecting Smoot to have a breakout this year is that the Jags’ defensive line is still pretty stacked. Even though Fowler and Jackson are now gone, the Jaguars selected Josh Allen with the seventh pick overall this spring, and that guy is almost definitely going to be active every week that he is available this season. That means there is a chance that, once again, Smoot will find himself as the odd man out on gamedays this fall.
I know that.
However, I still see Smoot as a player with a tremendous amount of potential and I believe he will find a way to work himself back into the lineup this season. If he is on the field the guy is sure to make plays, and maybe some of the big variety as well. He just needs more opportunities, and I think he will get them this season.
Confidence level: Low