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this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; http://www.nola.com/saints/t-p/index...0862545540.xml » More From The Times-Picayune Saints News Something to prove Saints defensive tackle Kenny Smith says he deserves to be a starter, and he's determined to make his case during training camp Saturday August 09, 2003 By Jeff Duncan ...

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Old 08-09-2003, 08:28 AM   #1
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Kenny Smith Article

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Something to prove

Saints defensive tackle Kenny Smith says he deserves to be a starter, and he's determined to make his case during training camp


Saturday August 09, 2003


By Jeff Duncan
Staff writer


The word "inconsistent" has been attached to Kenny Smith's name so often it could be a prefix.

The Saints' third-year defensive tackle has grown weary of the label, which he says started in college when he sometimes failed to run out plays that didn't go to his side.
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"I think it's unfair," Smith said. "I think I can be one of the top defensive linemen in the league."

But so far, his brief career has been mostly an exercise in futility.

This year was supposed to be different. After two seasons of limited action, Smith was finally expected to blossom.

After a strong offseason, coaches elevated him to the starting defensive tackle spot in the spring and told him it was his job to lose.

But this past week, two days after first-round draft pick Johnathan Sullivan signed a seven-year, $19 million contract, Smith walked into a meeting room to discover that the rookie had been moved from nose tackle to Smith's spot on the depth chart.

"It's kind of mind-blowing to me," Smith said. "I was down a little bit for a couple of days. Now I'm trying to stay focused and not worry about it."

Smith said coaches did not tell him about the move. He just noticed that his snaps with the first team had started to disappear.

"They told me it was my job to lose and I don't think I've lost my job to any one of our players yet," Smith said. "Coaches haven't come to me and said anything, so as far as I know it's still my job to lose."

Smith has worked with the second-team defense for most of the past week. In certain packages, he has also seen time at end, the position he played at Alabama.

"Kenny is a heck of an athlete," Saints coach Jim Haslett said. "He was drafted in the third round. He is powerful. He is quick. He can get off the ball. He is disruptive. He just has to be consistent. We just need to have consistent play out of Kenny day in and day out. If he can do that, then he can be a full time player in this league."

Smith's versatility might also be a curse. At 6 feet 4, 295 pounds, he's almost too big to play end. His explosiveness and quick first step would make him an excellent nose tackle, but he lacks the bulk and stature needed for the position.

So the club has settled on Smith at the defensive tackle spot, which aligns opposite the offensive guard's outside shoulder.

"It is a little bit of everything," Haslett said. "Defensive linemen have to be reliable. They can't be running around and doing their own thing. Kenny has really improved in all of those areas and he has been more dependable probably than anybody right now."

Smith showed flashes of ability during several cameo appearances last season. He made 3 ½ sacks and forced a fumble in nine games, including one start.

Because of his potential and youth, Smith's name has surfaced in trade talks. The offseason additions of Sullivan and veteran free-agent Henry Ford, coupled with holdovers Martin Chase and Grady Jackson, have created a glut at the position.

Unless a deal is made before the start of the season, a player with previous starting experience is going to be released. The Saints are not expected to keep more than four defensive tackles on the 53-man roster.

"I don't hear (the trade speculation)," Smith said. "This is a business. If a trade comes up and I leave, then I'll go start somewhere else. I just do what I've got to do."

Smith was linked to a deal last season that would have sent him to Philadelphia for nickel back Al Harris. The Eagles are the opponent for the Saints' exhibition opener Monday night in the Superdome.

"I had heard about (the trade)," Smith said. "At the time, if it would have happened I would have been happy. I was ready to make a name for myself. I think people kind of lost the name Kenny Smith because I didn't play the first year.

"But now I'm looking forward to big things here this year. I think I'm one of the defensive linemen that can stay. I can play the game of football. I'm one of those down-and-dirty guys that gets into it. I don't worry too much about it."
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Old 08-09-2003, 12:32 PM   #2
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Kenny Smith Article

All he has to do is prove it on the field.
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Old 08-10-2003, 12:21 AM   #3
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Kenny Smith Article

I hope this guy(Kenny Smith) have a chance to prove it on the field.
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Old 08-11-2003, 06:47 AM   #4
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Kenny Smith Article

I would rather see Gravy Jackson go than Kenny. I\'ve always been a Kenny fan since his days at Alabama (and I hate bama) the guy can be a force and will be once he has the full confidence of the coaches.
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Old 08-11-2003, 08:04 AM   #5
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Kenny Smith Article

\"It\'s kind of mind-blowing to me,\" Smith said. \"I was down a little bit for a couple of days. Now I\'m trying to stay focused and not worry about it.\"

Smith said coaches did not tell him about the move. He just noticed that his snaps with the first team had started to disappear.

\"They told me it was my job to lose and I don\'t think I\'ve lost my job to any one of our players yet,\" Smith said. \"Coaches haven\'t come to me and said anything, so as far as I know it\'s still my job to lose.\"
Uh Oh, I wonder if this is the kind of backstabbing Turley was whinning about.
I think they should have told him what was going on and why (and if) he was demoted.
Hopefully its just some kind of motivational mindgame they are playing to get that little extra out of Kenny.
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Old 08-11-2003, 08:12 AM   #6
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Kenny Smith Article

While Grady Jackson may or may not be motivated in tonights game against the Eagles, I fully expect that Kenny Smith will be. The knock on Kenny Smith, as everyone knows, has been that he\'s not always motivated.

Kenny, according to coaches, has had a tremendous off season and is in excellent shape. Kenny knows he is in danger of losing his starting postion, and that should be motivation enough for him to play this game like it\'s the SUPER BOWL!!

While nothing is a given in tonights game, I expect Kenny Smith to have a BIG game !!!

Gooooooooo Kenny



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Old 08-11-2003, 09:18 AM   #7
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Kenny Smith Article

I think they should have told him what was going on and why (and if) he was demoted.
Hopefully its just some kind of motivational mindgame they are playing to get that little extra out of Kenny.
Its not so much that they have demoted Smith but they have moved Sullivan. Unfortunatly, it works out the same for Smith. Sullivan is now working at Smiths tackle spot (outside the guard) a move from nose tackle where he was originaly projected. Both are a better fit to use there speed there than the typical nose tackle spot which tends to be larger sized bodies(Grady and Chase).



[Edited on 8/11/2003 by saint5221]
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Old 08-11-2003, 09:37 AM   #8
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Kenny Smith Article

They still could have gone to him and explained that they misjudged Sullivan\'s strength, that he\'s not big enough to play the nose tackle spot as they originally intended. That\'s easier to take than just seeing your plays with the first-team going away. It\'s not really important and Smith may still be a starter, but it makes you wonder if communication isn\'t a problem.
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Old 08-11-2003, 09:45 AM   #9
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Kenny Smith Article

The Saints did not move up in the draft and pay Sullivan the kind of money he is getting to sit on the bench this year. Sullivan was penciled in as a starter the second he was drafted.

Regaurdless of what Kenny Smith has been told, he has a chance to show why he deserves to be the starter, starting tonight.

Coaches have a tendency to go with a proven player over the unknown, and Grady has plenty of NFL experience, however, if Kenny Smith can live up to his potential in the preseason, it would be hard for the coaches to not start him.
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Old 08-11-2003, 09:58 AM   #10
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Kenny Smith Article

On second thought things may not look so bad for Smith. The regular season opener is still some time away and the coaches may just test Sullivan at both positions. A Sullivan/Smith tandem is still a possibility. I cannot see Smith starting over Sullivan, so his starting job also depends on how Chase and Jackson compare to Smith at nose tackle.
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