Pass-Rushing Preston Smith Sacks Vikings, Lifts Redskins

The second-year linebacker started the second half of the year with a "wow" performance and one big surprise.

LANDOVER -- The Washington Redskins needed more from Preston Smith entering the second half of the season. Smith delivered.

The second-year outside linebacker had his most dominant game of the season Sunday in Washington's 26-20 win over Minnesota at FedEx Field. Smith racked up four tackles, two sacks and an interception. He also compiled ample postgame praise.

The locker room was loaded with Preston Fever. Defensive Lineman Ricky Jean Francois yelled, "After party at Preston's house!" It just goes to show how much this defense believes in Preston. They know his upside is limitless and they know he has freakish traits. It's just that he hasn't shown it consistently this season. 

Coach Jay Gruden knows this and has let Smith know.

"Jay has been riding me like a horse jockey," Smith said. "I'm the horse trying to win the race and he's just been riding me so hard. He just tells me every day that I need to get some better rushes." 

Sacks are expected. Interceptions are a bonus.

Smith admitted he almost dropped the ball. Since he didn't, he avoided the wrath that surely would have come his way. 

Although that interception was a great, freakish play, a play that won't be talked about much is a tackle Smith made earlier in the game. He showed great range and athleticism on a run stop outside left end. 

"It was a much-needed game for me, confidence-wise," Preston said of the key stop.

Last season as a rookie, Smith really came on during the second half of the year. It will be interesting to see if he once again emerges late in the year. 

You can find Emmanual on Twitter @manny_benton.

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