Wade Smith Wears Many Hats on the O-Line

Wade Smith is used to being Mr. Interchangeable.

At the University of Memphis, Smith started out as a tight end his freshman year, learned how to play fullback the next year, switched to right tackle as a junior, then played his senior season at left tackle.

With the Miami Dolphins, Smith learned how to play center and guard in addition to seeing action at both left and right tackle.

Now in his second year with the Jets, Smith has been asked to draw on all of his experience at different positions to be a versatile asset for the team in the upcoming season.

"To be able to go wherever you're needed, whatever to help the team is something that you try to do," Smith said Sunday after the single afternoon training camp practice. "When you're not necessarily in the starting five guys, you have to kind of find your role, whatever role they put you in, you try to do the best you can to help out the team."

Like many of his teammates in camp, Smith has been given looks at different positions, should a situation arise during the season that necessitates his play at a particular spot on the offensive line.

"Wade's worked at center, he's worked at guard, he's worked at tackle so that he could fill in all those spots," said head coach Eric Mangini. "I think Wade's a good example of a guy who has created position flexibility for himself by playing in multiple spots, playing them well, not seeing a significant dropoff when he goes from one spot to the other."

Sunday, Smith saw work at center and right tackle. The differences of playing each position are significant, as are the adjustments necessary to adapt to the major changes in opponents' size and speed. Blocking a 325-pound nose tackle is much different than facing off against a speedy 280-pound end.

But Smith's past experience at different positions have helped him become a model for Mangini's philosophy of coveting multipurpose players.

"Being a student of the game, the longer you do this, the more you're used to certain things, being able to be put in certain situations," said Smith. "Just the fact that I've played in game situations, live situations at every position, it helps to be able to [change positions]."

In fact, Smith takes pride in being able to move around the offensive line in practice.

"I think the more versatility you have, it helps the team tremendously," he said. "I think that's one of the things the Jets are built on, being able to line a safety up at linebacker, being able to line this person at that, it doesn't matter. Everybody has to know what everybody else has to do and be able to step in and play that position."

While training camp is a nice platform for players to ease into new positions, it's preseason action when such players earn their stripes. Against the Vikings, Smith saw extensive action at right tackle, a position he hadn't played in a game since his days with the Dolphins.

It's a position the five-year veteran worked on in practice last week leading up to the game, where a better evaluation could be made.

"I thought Wade did a nice job, not having worked as much at right tackle," said Mangini.

Consistency is Smith's goal for the remainder of training camp and the two preseason games leading up to the regular-season opener against New England.

"I'm just trying to get better every day," he said. "You fix one thing and you've got to make sure you don't let something else fall to the wayside and just continue to try to get better every day."

Such is the positive attitude that defines one of the many Mr. Interchangeables on this Jets team.

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