Is Antonio Smith Up to the Task in Houston?

Antonio Smith has never been expected to be a savior for any team since his pro career began in 2004. Smith was a former fifth-round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals from Oklahoma State, and statistically the best year of his career came in 2007 when he recorded just 44 tackles and six sacks. So how excited should Texans fans be of his presence in Houston? That remains to be seen.

Deserving or not, Smith now has great expectations since he inked a five-year, $35 million free agent deal back in March. Smith is expected to be the missing link of a defense which had trouble pressuring opposing passers last season, and many expect him to team up with Mario Williams to be the next great set of pass-rushing bookends.

"What they want for me and Mario to do is for me to just play my game and for Mario to play his game," Smith told reporters. "I think what they did is they went into the office and saw my best attributes and saw his and put us in the right positions."

Smith was held out for the first few Texans OTA practices, but since returning Texans head coach Gary Kubiak has liked what he's seen.

"He looks good, looks real good," Kubiak said. "Very strong, very powerful after his first two practices with us, so it's important to get him going, catch him up. But he looks very good."

With as much talent as the Texans have in their front seven, the defense will likely give opposing offenses several different looks which may include some hybrid 3-4 looks. Smith feels like he can play anywhere and in any scheme.

"Basically, I'm a renaissance man," Smith said jokingly. "I'm going to do a little bit of everything – a little bit of inside, nickel and some dropping into coverage."

Smith's numbers have always been pretty pedestrian in the NFL, and the Texans hope that will change with his new role, as soon as he figures out exactly what that role will be.

"I've never really done just one thing my whole career," Smith told reporters following practice last week. "It's like second nature to me. Once I learn the technique they want me to use, I think I'll be fine, but my career I have been a nose, end, tackle and then dropping into coverage as an end. I know how to do it all."

Expectations are high this season for the Texans, and head coach Gary Kubiak may not survive another underachieving season. Houston feels that the team is built to win now, and that may not be possible unless they get a significant contribution from their most prized free agent acquisition.

Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.

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