Washington Redskins Sophomore Spotlight: Preston Smith

This second-round pick showed his worth late last season and is looking to carry that over to 2016

Linebacker Preston Smith was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the round identical to the number of the stars he garnered as a college recruit: two. The Georgia native has improved considerably since his high school days and that ascent should continue in year two of his NFL career. Let's put him in the Sophomore Spotlight.

Before the Washington Redskins

Smith played at Mississippi State for four years and primarily lined up at defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. His 2014 season year was his best as he racked up 15 tackles for loss and nine sacks on his way to being a first-team All-SEC selection. He recorded 27 TFLs in his last three years of college, a skill that would carry over to the pros.

Year Games Played Tackles Sacks Interceptions Forced Fumbles Passes Defended
2011 9 7 0.0 0 1 1
2012 13 35 4.5 0 1 0
2013 12 44 2.5 0 1 3
2014 13 48 9.0 2 2 3

What the Analysts Said

Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

"Smith has been a solid, rotational defensive end for Mississippi State, but nothing too special. When studying tape long enough, you see traits and potential. With his long arms, plus hands and ability to play the run, Smith could be an interesting prospect inside or in a hybrid 3-4 front. As a 4-3 defensive end, he lacks the twitch to be an impact player."


Dane Brugler, CBSSports.com

"The light bulb started to illuminate for Smith over the summer (newborn daughter was a driving force of motivation) and it was at full glow a few games into the season, earning SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week honors three straight weeks at one point. His versatility is the key to his ability, lining up inside and outside and attacking the point of attack with his power and long arms."

Walter Cherepinsky, WalterFootball.com

"At the Combine, Smith had a quality 40 time and workout. He looks to have solidified his stock as a second-day pick between his Combine, Senior Bowl and final season of tape. Smith looks like a solid base end in a 4-3 defense. Smith was one of the Bulldogs' top defenders who led a tough defense in 2014."

2015 Season

Games Played Tackles Sacks Forced Fumbles Passes Defended
17 38 9.0 3 4

Smith converted to linebacker in Washington's 3-4 defense. Although linebacker Trent Murphy's presence limited his field time early on, Smith finished the season strong, notching six sacks in the final four games of his year. Smith's three-sack performance against the Philadelphia Eagles helped the Redskins lock up the NFC East in Week 16. And about those tackles for loss? Smith had six of them, which ranked third on the team.

2016 Season

Although he started just two games as a rookie, Smith will be viewed by the Redskins as a starting-caliber pass rusher this season. He should receive heavy practice time with the first-team defense this summer while linebacker Junior Galette finishes up his Achilles tear recovery, and that can only help the younger's maturation as a player. Once the Redskins have their top three pass rushers ready to roll -- Ryan Kerrigan, Smith and Galette -- opposing QBs better keep their head on a swivel. 

Additional Sophomore Spotlights

*Brandon Scherff

*Kyshoen Jarrett

*Jamison Crowder

*Matt Jones

*Quinton Dunbar

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