If I had to rank the Washington Redskins players that are under the age of 25, Preston Smith would rank high on the list. In fact, personally, the 2015 second round pick would probably top that list for me.
Unfortunately for Smith, he had a down season last year. I don't believe his year was nearly as bad as some made it to be. He was easily the best run stopping linebacker on the team. He also provided more rush than his stat total would suggest. But pass rushers don't get praise for almost-sacks. Preston Smith knows he has to produce numbers. "I worked on a lot of things that could help me improve this year, as far as finishing plays and getting to the Quarterback," Smith told Breaking Burgundy. "There were a lot of unfortunate sacks I missed last year that could've helped my numbers look a whole lot better."
Smith has freakish traits that he's flashed, but not consistently. I often find that some players who are raw, yet have supreme talent can find themselves lacking the work ethic needed to reach that next level. Smith has, at times, not put in the needed work.
This year, however, Preston Smith has trimmed some baby fat and looks to be in the best shape of his life. He's looking more and more like a legitimate outside linebacker. He appears to be motivated and ready to prove doubters wrong. "I got more fit and trimmed down some body fat," Smith said. "I'm just trying to progress. Make sure I put the right things in my body so that I can get positive results."
The addition of Ryan Anderson could further push Preston Smith. I don't believe Smith's job is in jeopardy because of Anderson. There's no doubt that Preston is the more talented edge presence. However, Anderson's blue collar mentality is contagious and could rub off on Preston Smith.
Other than apparent laziness, I believe there were other reasons to Smith's down year. A combination of not being let loose, overthinking and lacking talent on the defensive line could all be factors. This is why the addition of Jonathan Allen could not only benefit Preston Smith, but the other linebackers too. "We're going to be a more physical squad with the front seven," Smith said. "It's going to be more intense up front."
Now heading into his third season with the team, it's important for Smith to take his game to the next level. It's now or never.