Our very own Justin Pawlowski listed his candidates for this season's defensive breakout players. One of them was defensive end Jacquies Smith, and rightfully so. But it got me thinking about something.
I remember noticing last season from the press box the several different times Smith was lined up next to defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. That in itself was telling, why not line him up next to last offseason's "big" acquisition in defensive end Michael Johnson. Simple: Smith helped McCoy produce.
Of McCoy's 8.5 sacks in 2014, Smith helped create four of them. Here's how.
The following week in Cleveland, Smith's rush forced Brian Hoyer to scramble to his left where there was a looping McCoy waiting for him at the other side of the line.
At Washington in Week 11, Smith immediately collapsed the pocket off the snap and forced Robert Griffin III to scramble out of the pocket. As Griffin spun out of the way of a diving Smith, McCoy was Johnny-on-the-spot once again.
In Week 13 at home against Cincinnati, Smith beat the right tackle off the snap and forced quarterback Andy Dalton to step up into the pocket right into McCoy.
McCoy is a Pro Bowler in his own right. But Smith's plays -- like the ones above that don't get recorded into the stat sheet -- prove to be the most valuable on the defensive side of the ball.
The Bucs have a possible gem in Smith. Teams will look for him in 2015. While many praise McCoy for his sacks, the opposition will see on tape why McCoy was successful. If anything else, Tampa Bay could have a dynamic duo when they line up side-by-side on the line once again this season.
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