How Chris Smith Fits with the Jacksonville Jaguars

Giancarlo Ferrari-KingFeatured ColumnistMay 10, 2014

Arkansas defensive end Chris Smith (42) sets up for play against Mississippi during the second half of their NCAA college football game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss., on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. Mississippi won 34-24. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

Pass-rushers are one commodity that NFL teams can't live without.

Logically, the notion of playing in a quarterback-driven league means that the more edge-rushers you have, the better your chances are at winning football games.

The Seattle Seahawks' incredible run of success of the 2013 season may be cliche by now, but it's still the best blueprint we have.

Going up against one of the game's most prolific passers, the Seahawks used their fierce pass rush to tune up Peyton Manning and destroy the Denver Broncos.

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley is a Seattle guy. He served as the team's defensive coordinator from 2009 up until he took the job in Jacksonville entering the 2013 season.

That means he fully understands and values a good edge-player.

Looking for one of those guys in the draft, the Jaguars set their sights on Arkansas defensive end Chris Smith—a player they were familiar with, considering Bradley coached him at the 2014 Senior Bowl.

Smith is a versatile player who spent time rushing the quarterback standing up, as well as lining up in a three-point stance. Racking up 22 sacks over his last three years at Arkansas, he proved he had a flair for getting after the quarterback.

His role in Jacksonville will, without question, be that of a "Leo." Not the astrology sign, but one of the most important positions in Coach Bradley's defensive philosophy.

The "Leo" role isn't anything new.

According to Clare Farnsworth of, head coach Pete Carroll utilized that position when he was the San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator in 1995—at that time it was actually called "Elephant" instead of "Leo."

Essentially, a "Leo" is a player who relies on his speed and athletic ability to overwhelm quarterbacks. At it's purest form, it's a cross between a 3-4 linebacker and a "traditional" 4-3 defensive end.

Smith is a good fit for that position because of his straight-line speed, thick frame and his aptness for penetrating into the backfield.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller described him as an "instant-impact pass-rusher" in his pro comparison segment.

Using the analogy of Brandon Graham from the Philadelphia Eagles, Miller likes the fact that Smith is "scheme-versatile."

Figuring out a reason why he fell into the fifth-round isn't easy. But Bleacher Report's own Darren Page raised a great point in his scouting report.

"Chris Smith’s senior season may cast some doubt for those who expected him to take another step forward.  The way the Arkansas coaching staff used him, in mostly a contain role, played against his strengths and held him back, though," Page wrote.

One thing that he does have to get better at is learning how to properly defend the run. He doesn't have ideal strength, which allows bigger offensive linemen to push him off the point of attack.

When you look at him from a big picture perspective, Smith is pretty raw as far as his technique goes. 

Poor technique that sometimes forces him to rely on his speed more than anything else.

Thankfully, the Jaguars have Chris Clemons and Jason Babin currently stashed away on the roster. Both of those guys are quality, experienced "Leo" players who will allow Smith enough time to develop while being used in a rotational capacity.

Honing his technique and bettering himself as a player is the best way for Smith to become an integral part of this defense.


*To learn more about this young man, you can listen to Smith's full post-draft conference call via

All CFB stats and information courtesy of, unless noted otherwise. 

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