Bryan (aka Mr. FanBall) asked for my quick thoughts on the impact of Jason Smith on the Rams this season for his upcoming “5 Questions You Should Be Asking” column. I gave him a little taste of what we’ve been seeing and hearing, along with a little projection on what the season might hold. Here it is:
From what I’ve seen so far, I expect Jason Smith to mature rapidly into a full time starter. There’s no question in my mind that he’ll be on the field Week 1 — most likely at right tackle, as that has been almost exclusively where he has lined up in practice. He is very athletic, with very quick feet. Bill Coats at the St Louis Post Dispatch recently reported that he has had trouble with some of the veteran Leonard Little’s speed rushes, but given Smith’s athleticism, that can be solved with technique and coaching. He has the ability.
Already he is a devastating run blocker, something that Alex Barron has never really provided on the right side — Steven Jackson was pretty much on his own to get yards, often fighting through initial contact behind the line of scrimmage to get his 4 yards. But Smith and the team’s secondary blockers have also shown nice orchestration as far as setting up screens, which is again something that the Rams have struggled to execute in recent years with Pace and Barron on the edges.
Absolute best case, the rebuilt line coerces Marc Bulger back to Pro Bowl form. However, I’m pessimistic on this … Smith will still make a couple rookie mistakes, and Bulger doesn’t need many hits to get those alarm bells ringing these days. But it is realistic to forecast Smith as an every-down starter, and that his play will significantly impact Steven Jackson’s health (fewer head-on hits behind the line) and production.