E.Smith Picked up the Pace


Smith wraps up WR Wes Welker

With their second selection in the third round of last year's draft, the Jets added depth to their secondary by acquiring Michigan State captain and safety Eric Smith. Even though the Jets had both starting safeties from 2005 returning in Erik Coleman and Kerry Rhodes, it was Smith's intelligence and approach to the game that caught the eye of the Jets' front office.

"Eric has done a good job stepping in there, working with that group," said head coach Eric Mangini. "I like the way that he communicates and the information isn't too big for him. He gathers the information and makes adjustments effectively for a rookie."

Like many athletic rookies, the majority of action Smith saw came on Mike Westhoff's special teams unit.

"He has done a good job for me. I like him," said Westhoff of Smith. "He's the fullback on the punt team, which is a very integral position that you have to have. He's on all of our units, he's a good blocker, and he's done a nice job in everything. He's going to block a punt here pretty soon. I certainly believe he's very close."

Westhoff made the bold prediction at the season's midway point, and the legendary special teams guru wasn't too far off. During the regular-season finale against Oakland, Smith was finally able to get to the punter after dozens of close encounters, partially blocking a Shane Lechler punt in the final minutes of the first half.

Also in that New Year's Eve match against the Raiders, Smith came down with his second career interception when he picked off Oakland quarterback Aaron Brooks in the fourth quarter. Smith's first came in the Jets' 20-13 loss to the Browns in October when he picked off Cleveland quarterback Charlie Frye in the second quarter. He finished his first NFL season with 27 tackles.

For his efforts against the Raiders in the Jets' playoff clincher, Smith was awarded the Special Teams Player of the Week by Mangini.

"Eric has been a core contributor from the secondary position on special teams, and he has played a role in some of the games at safety whether it is on defense or the substituted defense," the coach said. "With each rookie, they develop at their own pace, but it has been encouraging the way that these guys have been working. They are carving out more of a role in terms of contributing on defense, which is what we are looking for from the group, and everyone on the team."

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