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Seahawks Defensive Grades: Garrison Smith has been impressive for what he’s asked to do

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John Schneider keeps digging in that gold mine, has he found gold or just fool’s gold?

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

So over the past several years, the Seattle Seahawks have picked up a few of the San Francisco 49ers castoffs, with Michael Robinson and Ricardo Lockette among them. The latest is Garrison Smith, the defensive tackle who the Seahawks picked up during final cuts in September — Is he the next 49ers castaway that John Schneider found to contribute in an important supporting role or just an insurance policy on the 53-man roster who will be forgotten not unlike Nick Moody, who was a player in Seattle last season.

Really.

First let’s take a look at what led Smith to the Hawks in the first place. This preseason, Smith posted two sacks and 15 tackles, which is pretty impressive and starting to get into the “Frank Clark preseason Hall of Famer” territory. Even though he was productive, he was buried on San Francisco’s depth chart. He’s also more of a 4-3 DT nickel pass rusher, not a 3-4 NT, which is what he was to the Niners, so it makes sense to why he was released.

Smith has only seen action in Week 3 and 4; Against his former team in Week 3, he saw 24 snaps and posted four total tackles; Last week against the Jets, he saw a total of 18 snaps with no tackles, but a bit of a surprise, he was featured in the base package and for a few full drives, not just on third downs or obvious passing situations.

The grading scale is a bit different for the defensive line, compared to the offensive line. A few changes:

The scoring for the defensive line, especially defensive tackles, is a bit more ambiguous than other positions. This is due to their role and how a lot of the times, they are just asked to plug a hole, occupy blockers, etc. Most of the gray area is at the lower end of the Field Gulls Grading scale.

So what do the Seahawks have in their new defensive tackle?

In Smith’s first play he faces off with former Seattle guard James Carpenter. They lined up across from one another often, actually.

Play 1: Matt Forte right tackle for 3 yards

Good cut block by Carpenter which keeps Smith from pursuing down the line. However, even though he’s taken down, Smith does a good job of staying on top of Carp, gets up and hustles down the line to get in at the end of the tackle.

Play 2: Pass to Forte for 12 yards

Here on the very next play, Smith gets double teamed by the center and left guard. He does a good job of not getting tied up and disengaging, and using his mobility to move sideways and cut off Ryan Fitzpatrick from scrambling.

Play 4: Pass to Quincy Enunwa for 11 yards

Here Smith is 1 on 1 vs Carp. It’s not a win for Smith, but he’s able to get up field about five yards before Carp cuts off his rush. See how Carp lets him get in close to his chest? This is where a guy like Aaron Donald can pull off a spin move for a free run at the QB, but not what you would expect from an undrafted free agent on his third team. However, a five yard push into the backfield is decent enough.

Play 6: Sack by KJ Wright

Look familiar? The infamous 3-man rush with a DT dropping to a shallow middle zone. Fitzpatrick doesn’t look there, but he has a good drop that will be right in front of the shallow crossing route by the slot receiver, then Smith follows the QB’s eyes. Here Smith shows off his agility and quickness.

Play 7: Incomplete to Enunwa

It’s hard to see in the gif, but after initially locking up with the center, he rips under the C’s arms and has a path to the QB. Didn’t get completely free but was good enough that if Fitzgerald holds the ball a second longer, he’s sharing a sack with Michael Bennett. He needs to better anticipate the move, rather than just reacting.

Play 11: Forte for 0 yards. Offensive holding.

Not a good play here for Smith, and is exhibit A of why he’s not a run stuffing DT, he can’t anchor against a double team. This kind of made me chuckle, but watch as he breaks free from the double team ... he just looks so small compared to those giant offensive lineman! But the one thing that I do love about him, is that he doesn’t give up and he hustles, which he shows here.

Play 15: Sack by Bobby Wagner

First thing, look at the alignment by the defense. Lined up as a 3-4, with Ahtyba Rubin, Smith and Frank Clark as the down linemen, Wright and Cliff Avril are the OLBs, and Kam Chancellor and Wagner the MLB. The center double teams Rubin with Carpenter, the right guard has Smith 1 on 1. Here I think it’s Smith’s job to control his man, not necessarily to rush the passer. He does this well, as the guard doesn’t even notice Wagner run by him for the sack. BRILLIANT play design and call by Kris Richard.

GRADES

Out of only 18 plays, I only counted five where he did his job, a few stalemates and the rest were some degree of failure, so I think his grades are pretty reflective of his performance. All in all, about what you would expect from your number four DT.

Take Aways:

  1. Garrison Smith moves very well for a guy that is 6’1, 310 lbs. Essentially I see him as the Jordan Hill replacement, the nickel DT, however, I see guys like Quinton Jefferson when healthy getting more snaps.
  2. He really lacks the strength to anchor against the run, even sometimes in 1 on 1 match ups, not just double teams.
  3. Smith had a lot of reps in base 4-3 and stayed in on drives. Didn’t just come in on passing downs, which was a bit of a surprise, considering that we both Rubin and McDaniel and can slide Bennett inside if need be.

BONUS CONTENT: FRANK CLARK IS A BEAST

Frank Clark lined up against James Carpenter a few times, and rushed as a DT quite often. Check this out....

Not a very impressive rush right? I mean Clark doesn’t get the sack or jump off the screen or anything, but wait, that’s a 255 lb DE bull rushing a 325 lb guard! One thing we know about Carpenter, is that he’s a huge human being and is ridiculously strong, Clark shows off impressive strength here. Clark caught my eye on a few other plays as well. It’s impressive how active and violent he is. always moving, never stops, and uses his hands very well. He’s definitely learning from Bennett and Avril.