Hayden Smith: New York Jets Fans Shouldn't Expect Much from Former Rugby Star

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistOctober 29, 2012

WATFORD, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19:  Hayden Smith of Saracens claims the line out ball during the Aviva Premiership match between Saracens and Leicester Tigers at Vicarage Road on February 19, 2012 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
Warren Little/Getty Images

For the New York Jets fans who did not know who Hayden Smith was before the team promoted him Saturday and dressed him for action against the Miami Dolphins, the team’s third-string tight end is a former rugby star from Australia.

The Jets needed to sign the rough prospect to an NFL contract after veteran backup TE Jeff Cumberland dislocated his right hand, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News.

With so much raw talent, the hope from the organization was that a player of Smith’s size and athleticism would pick up on the NFL terminology and style quickly and be a viable option.

So far, though, that hasn’t been the case.

Smith was loved by the Jets in the preseason, but he has struggled to make a name for himself with New York because he's been trapped behind several higher-caliber tight ends. With an injury to Cumberland opening the door for a move to the NFL, many fans thought they would get big things from the long-term project.

But that simply won’t be the case.

With no catches or targets against Miami for Smith and New York on bye in Week 9, the team had hoped all along that Cumberland would be back for the Jets' matchup against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 10.

While Smith will still likely fill the third-string tight end role against the Seahawks, he won't make any kind of immediate impact on the game like many fans had hoped.

Dustin Keller is the clear No. 1, and, barring injuries, the most Smith should be hoping for is some playing time on special teams and the valuable learning experience of watching the game as it unfolds.

There is little doubt that Smith has the raw talent, but his development will be determined by how much the Jets invest into him. If New York wants to build its own star, Jets fans should expect a slow progression over the next few seasons before Smith ever truly becomes effective.


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