Antonio Smith thrived as both an edge rusher and interior run defender with the Houston Texans.
While he wasn’t necessarily the showcased player on the defensive side, he was always a constant threat to whomever was under center.
Houston ran the 3-4, which made Smith something close to a 4-3 defensive tackle, molding in Oakland’s system. He was the recipient of double-teams on a regular basis, and was never overlooked in pass-protection.
His stats aren’t magnificent but his tape tells a tale that no spreadsheet can. Here, against the San Diego Chargers, Smith lives in the back field. He is able to stuff the run, and make quarterback Phillip Rivers uncomfortable on just about every down.
His production is still dependent on the supporting cast — just like any other defensive lineman. But he brings it on every play. And even between plays, like when he swung his helmet at former Dolphins lineman Richie Incognito.
Smith can help carry a defensive line — well, at least he has before. At 31 years old, there is plenty of room to question whether he’s lost a step, and he might have. But the film doesn’t show it.
Assuming the other linemen — Justin Tuck, Lamarr Woodley an (presumably) Stacy McGee — can shoulder their responsibilities, they should be fierce enough. Adding a fifth rusher, like Sio Moore, could create serious problems for other team’s.
It’s been an unspoken goal of both Reggie McKenzie and Mark Davis to revamp the pass rush. Though Davis said he was envious of Seattle’s defensive front during the offseason, they have a long way to go before getting there, and may not dive into drafting a bunch of defensive linemen.
That’s because the current line gives them enough right away, and should the starting four replicate what they’ve done last year, they’ll be pretty dominant.
If they do decide to draft a defensive lineman early, they should do it only after trading down.
Even then, it’s a hard sell to think they’d be any better. That’s because of what Smith brings. He’s the crutch of an inferior edge-rusher, making almost anyone better just by lining up alongside them. That’s what his tape says, anyway.