Despite having his best season since becoming a professional football, Andre Smith‘s mind is likely only full of memories from last Thursday’s victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cincinnati Bengals won the game, but Smith by far had his worst game of the season. Going up against Brandon Graham, Smith gave up three sacks and four quarterback hurries on the day. Smith had only given up four sacks in the 12 games prior to that trip to Philadelphia, despite facing off against some prominent pass rushers. Graham doesn’t carry much of a reputation, outside of mostly being known as a first round bust who was taken ahead of Jason Pierre-Paul, but reputation has next to nothing to do with on-field performance. Instead of bringing a big name to the game, Graham brought a low center of gravity and a relentless bull-rush that complemented his burst well off the line of scrimmage. Smith was off balance all day long.
Despite facing the well-respected LaMarr Woodley this weekend, Smith will be much happier to face off against him than another player of Smith’s style. Woodley was a big defensive end in college, before becoming an even bigger outside linebacker on the professional level. He relies primarily on his ability to bully offensive tackles to get pressure on the quarterback and ultimately add to his sack totals. Woodley has 52 career sacks, but only four this season and 13 over the past two seasons. In fact, more often than not Woodley hasn’t even been able to get on the field as he has dealt with a multitude of injury issues. He returned last week from his most recent injury problem, but had little to no effect against the Dallas Cowboys as a pass rusher. Theoretically, Woodley should have been able to bully Doug Free on his way to the quarterback, but his level of production this season has been such that Free had an easy day.
The last time Smith and Woodley faced off, in Week 7, Woodley did have an interception, but failed to beat Smith in pass protection. It comes as no surprise really. Unlike Graham, who has the low center of gravity to get under Smith’s large frame, Woodley is too big and cumbersome to beat Smith consistently or keep him off balance with a diverse repertoire of moves. Smith’s poor performance last week could be down to the short week also, as the team’s whole offensive line appeared out of sync. That shouldn’t be the case this weekend as the Bengals have had 10 days to prepare for what is their biggest game of the season so far. Even though Woodley is underperforming, and has been for some time, Smith should still be determined to hold him off his quarterback and treat the confrontation as a personal goal.
So long as he is disciplined and focused, Smith should be able to rebound from his disastrous display last week and remove those terrorizing thoughts from his head.