44 Days: Jacquies Smith is Underrated

As we countdown the days until the Bucs' first preseason game, we discuss a different Bucs player at length.

As we have been counting down the days before the Buccaneers kick off preseason, BucsBlitz.com has taken a look at a player on Tampa Bay’s roster each day. With 44 days left to go, we look at who could have been the MVP of the Bucs’ defense in 2014.

No, I am not talking about defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Instead, it’s 25-year-old Jacquies Smith. After going undrafted in the 2012 out of Missouri, Smith bounced around Miami, Buffalo, and New York practice squads in 2012 and 2013 as well as a brief stint in the CFL with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. His big break came last season while he was still in Buffalo when he was released after Week 1 and picked up by the Bucs.

In a special sit down interview for Buccaneers.com, Smith talked about his journey to Tampa Bay and how the staff immediately told him they brought him in to rush the passer. He did just that. Smith made appearances in Weeks 2 through 9 last season before ending 2014 starting in seven of the final eight games of the season. In that time, Smith was impressive as he recorded 6.5 sacks.

But it’s not so much the sacks that defined Smith last season, instead it was his hustle, his play on the field. After they showed some highlights from his sacks in that video interview, I went back to watch game tape of Smith and what he did is productive in so many ways that is not recorded on the stat sheet in some instances.

In their Week 11 matchup against the Washington Redskins, Robert Griffin III dumped the ball off on a screen to running back Roy Helu, Jr. Smith -- trailing the play by what could have been nearly 10 yards -- caught up to Helu after he ran for 13 yards for a first down and knocked the ball out to force a turnover. The following week in Chicago Smith did the same on a similar screen play to running back Matt Forte. He didn’t force a turnover but he did catch up to Forte to bring him down and force the Bears to punt.

He has batted balls down at the line of scrimmage. He has forced quarterbacks to throw the ball away. His hustle is endless.

About a month ago, I published a story about how important Smith was to All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy last year. That breakdown was based off of Smith’s efforts that led to four of McCoy’s sacks in 2014. Watching him live from the press box is one thing. But going back and watching how many plays Smith was truly involved in was more than impressive.

This season will be a big year for Smith. We will see if he can duplicate last season’s success with now a full offseason under his belt in the same system. But if someone were to say that Smith made a case for last season’s MVP on the defensive side of the ball, I would not argue that at all.

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