2003 REPORT CARD: WADE SMITH

With the Dolphins having started working on changes in preparation for the 2004 season, we take a look back at their just-completed season and examine every player's performance. Today we look at offensive tackle Wade Smith.

Coming into the 2003 season:

It was clear last offseason that the Dolphins needed to land an offensive lineman or two in the draft, and the Dolphins tried their best to work out a trade so they could move into the first round to select either Kwame Harris of Stanford or Eric Steinbach of Iowa. When those efforts failed, the Dolphins sat back until the third round when they pulled the trigger on a trade with New England. The Dolphins sent the Patriots their 2004 second-round pick for a third-round selection they used on Memphis offensive tackle Wade Smith, a raw but promising prospect.

His performance in 2003:

The plan for Smith initially was to come in, learn and build up his upper-body strength. But after the Dolphins failed to land a left tackle in free agency and Mark Dixon was sidelined by an ankle injury, Smith was put into the starting lineup. He remained there all season. For the most part, Smith did solid work but it was the two games where he struggled that really stood out. One was the Indy game when Smith was abused all game by Dwight Freeney, who had three sacks and clinched the Colts' victory by forcing a fumble when he hit Brian Griese from behind. In Smith's defense, he probably should have been given more help that day. Smith also struggled the following week at Tennessee. Outside of those two games, Smith did about as well as you could expect a rookie left tackle to do. His work earned All-Rookie honors, so it wasn't like he stunk up the joint, even though the Indy game might make you think that way. One important stat on Smith was the fact he was the only Dolphins offensive lineman not to get called for a penalty last season.

His future with the team:

All in all, Smith's first season was promising for the future and one would think Smith would be starting at left tackle for several years to come. The hope is that he continues to develop. With more seasoning, Smith's athletic ability could make him a top-notch left tackle before too long.

Grade for 2003: B-.


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