May 26, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals safety Derron Smith (40) runs drills during OTAs at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Following this year’s NFL draft, Stripe Hype offered the prediction that former Fresno State safety Derron Smith could end up being the steal of the year. Although it remains very early in the 2015 offseason, it seems the Cincinnati Bengals newest addition to the safety corps is doing what he can to hold up to this billing.
Derron Smith impressed the Bengals’ staff during OTAs with his work ethic and playmaking ability. Smith put an exclamation point on his OTA experience by intercepting a pass from likely backup quarterback A.J. McCarron. The play highlights the work that Smith has already put in. He has been studying the playbook and also informed fans that fellow rookie Josh Shaw has been right there with him.
"“I knew the playbook like the back of my hand at Fresno State, so it was definitely different getting back in that study mode and actually having to put in hours by yourself or with another teammate. My roommate, Josh (Shaw), we do a good job of quizzing each other. And then of course the vets, they help out a lot too.”"
Derron Smith has been impressive enough to earn the praise of secondary coach, and rising star, Vance Joseph, who hinted recently that the first-year player could make an impact in the coming season despite the Bengals’ penchant for benching rookies in an effort to acclimate them to the NFL slowly.
"“He was a four-year starter at Fresno State so he has played a bunch of football. You can kind of tell that when you watch him play. He has great savvy for the game. He’s very, very smart, a quick runner. He’s going to help us.”"
It will be difficult for Derron Smith to get onto the defensive field in the coming season considering how loaded the team is in the secondary and at safety especially. Starters Reggie Nelson and George Iloka will continue to maintain their spots as one of the more effective, yet underrated, safety duos in the NFL.
Behind these two is Shawn Williams who’s been “knocking at the door” for a couple of years while waiting for his moment to shine. And despite the fact that Smith projects as a potential slot cover player, the Bengals have that covered too with players like veteran Leon Hall, second-year corner Darqueze Dennard, and possibly fellow rookie Josh Shaw. Smith will have his work cut out for him.
In 2015, I expect Derron Smith to make the roster as the teams’ fourth and final safety. Although I don’t expect to see him on the field while the team employs their defensive unit, I DO expect to see Smith make an impact on special teams, like so many young Bengals do. The team typically tasks young players with such responsibilities, and given Smith’s ability both as a playmaker and leader, I expect he would embrace these duties.
It’s still rather early in the 2015 NFL calendar, but Derron Smith is doing all the right things. He’s studying the playbook hard, impressing when given an opportunity to get on the field, and is making an impression on the coaching staff. If this keeps up, and I expect it will, look for Derron Smith to continue proving that the Bengals scored a real “steal” in the later rounds of this year’s draft.