GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 11: D.J. Smith #51 of the Green Bay Packers tackles Rock Cartwright #25 of the Oakland Raiders at Lambeau Field on December 11, 2011 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
APC's look at guys entering their sophmore campaign continues! Previous we looked into our crystal ball to see what should be expected of Graham Harrell. Now we consult the magic 8 ball to tell us about D.J. Smith
I think I might just call D.J. Smith Bishop v.2.0. Now I won't do this because I think his style of play is the same or they look similar, rather, there is just something about their stories that seems similar to me. Desmond Bishop was a relatively low round draft pick (6h round) who made some plays in the preseason and showed a spark to be a special player. For the longest time though he was stuck behind a player who was a long time starter, generally good, and a high round draft pick (Nick Barnett). Packer fans would clamour to get Bishop on the field because of his playmaking ability and talk of benching or moving Barnett, but the coaching staff stayed put. This continued through the switch to the 3-4 (which put Bishop behind two high round solid players) until Barnett got injured. The rest is history. Now Smith sits behind a former high round pick who is solid but not spectacular, A.J. Hawk. After an injury to Hawk, Smith came in and made some plays. Right now many fans are clamoring for Smith to get on the field, but the coaching staff seems content to stick with Hawk. Very similar story indeed.
Smith is an interesting player to watch right now. He appears to have a promising career in front of him. Packer fans have high expectations and Profootball Focus highlighted him as a part of its "Secret Superstar" series. More importantly he seems to bring a speed and playmaking ability that Hawk has not shown yet in the 3-4 defense. This could make him an excellent candidate to appear in some subpackages this year and push for more playing time. It will probably not lead to a starting spot though. More often than not key defensive players like Hawk have to play their way out of a starting spot rather than a guy behind them simply getting that shot on their own.
Smith's depth Chart in 2011 - Second string ILB
Smith's floor depth chart position in 2012 - Second string ILB: The populace may cry to Smith to replace Hawk but I highlight doubt they get that this year. It's more likely that Smith is phased into the role through out the year with more action in subpackages and more consistent play time. If he can make things happens, or at least stay consistent and be solid, then he should have an opportunity to take on Hawk next year for the starting spot.
Smith's ceiling depth chart in 2012 - Starting ILB: Just because something isn't likely to happen doesn't mean it's outside the realm of possibility. Hawk could be awful. Hawk could be what he's always been even and slowly get phased out. Don't forget that it looked like Hawk was going to be a goner in the early parts of 2010 with Brandon Chillar having a substantial amount of playing time and Hawk only getting a few snaps a game despite having the "starter" label.
Smith's stats in 2011 - 43 Tackles 32 Solo 11 Ast 0 Sack 1 Int 0 FF 0 FR
Smith's floor stats in 2012 - 60 Tackles 45 Solo 15 Ast 1 Sack 1 Int 0 FF 0 FR: Sixty tackles should be about right for a guy getting significant minutes, but not starter minutes. He should also get a few on special teams as well. The pick and sack are included because most of the time he is on the field should be in passing situations.
Smith's ceiling stats in 2012 - 100 Tackles 75 Solo 25 Ast 3 Sack 3 Int 1 FF 1 FR: If Smith plays as big a role as many expect then he will put up starter type numbers....whether he is a starter or not. If there is an injury and Smith goes in then that should only seal the deal.