Can Smith recapture the dominance of his time in New York?
When the Rams signed Steve Smith back in March, I didn't know what to think. I'm sure many fans were in the same boat, because there was a time when Steve Smith was the best slot receiver in the game. That was in the 2009 season, when Smith led the NFL in receptions with 107 (a New York Giants record) and also recorded seven touchdowns. Now all of that seems like a distant memory.
The Rams don't think so, because they signed Smith when they could have acquired a few other big-name wideouts that included Brandon Lloyd, Mario Mannningham, Vincent Jackson and Robert Meachem.
But they went after Smith instead, and I'm beginning to wonder how much success he can have in St. Louis. For one, Smith is a slot guy. The Rams have Danny Amendola back and healthy after a season-ending injury in Week 1 of 2011. Do they keep Smith in the slot, or do they split him wide and see how he performs?
Brian Schottenheimer can put him wherever he wants, but two things stand out to me when I look at Smith's history. One, the guy hasn't played a full season since his breakout year with the Giants in 2009. Halfway through the 2010 season with New York, Smith partially tore his pectoral muscle. Then, in December, he suffered an injury to his left knee and had to receive micro-fracture surgery.
Then, Smith re-injured the same knee after appearing in 11 games for the Eagles last year. He was put on injured reserve, ending his season.
That's a lot of health problems in a short amount of time for a 27 year-old NFL athlete.
This leads me to my second point. The fact that Smith is still only 27 tells me he has time left to make a difference in the NFL. Whether or not he can do it remains to be seen.
In two preseason games with the Rams, Smith has three receptions for 24 yards, with his longest catch being 10 yards. Rumor has it that Jeff Fisher plays his starters more in the fourth game than in the third game of the exhibition season. Either way, Steve Smith must be in the thick of the starting offense for both of those games if he is to cement a role on this team for the start of the regular season.
When it comes down to it, Smith can be a star in this league. Take away two battering injuries, and he may not be fighting quite as hard as he is now to remain relevant in the NFL.