The Seattle Seahawks have proven to be one of the best teams at cultivating young, unheard of defensive talent via the NFL Draft during Pete Carroll’s era. Players like Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, and K.J. Wright have all come from relative obscurity to turn into starters on one of the league’s top defenses. The next player ready to seize a starting role in 2013 has arrived, so allow me to introduce you to Malcolm Smith.
Seattle will be missing Bruce Irvin for the first four games of the upcoming season which will thrust Smith into a full-time starting role for those contests. Leroy Hill was let go by the team this offseason which boosts his status as well from part-time performer to mainstay in the starting lineup.
Smith will be playing weak-side linebacker where he started three games a year ago with moderate success. His 17 tackles and two pass deflections when called upon really aided the team in a time of need.
Perhaps the biggest concern with Smith in an expanded role will be his lack of physical presence. At just 6-foot-0, 226-pounds he looks more like a safety than a linebacker. He was a solid producer at USC during his collegiate days under Carroll, but his presence has been limited to primarily special teams duties in his second go-round with his former college coach.
While these physical limitations are concerning, the speed that Smith brings to the table in coverage will certainly help make up for it. His ability to cover in space and match-up one on one with opposing tight ends and slot receivers when necessary offers a lot of versatility to the Seahawks defensively. Even if he lacks the ideal size to take on and shed blockers Smith will excel in pass coverage and only add to a defense that ranked 6th in the league defending the pass last season.
The first four games will surely be Smith’s best chance to make a lasting impression for how he can fare in a full-time starting role. Look for him to be a beast in coverage and only get better at taking proper angles and avoiding blockers when it comes to defending the run. The Seahawks clearly have faith in this youngster, and that could lead to a breakout season for Smith in 2013.