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As players take their final breaks before training camp, The Redskins Blog will take a look back at the new faces from this offseason and what we've learned about them, football and otherwise, so far.
Today, we'll focus on rookie linebacker Preston Smith.
1. He's able to line up in a variety of stances:In the 3-4 scheme the Redskins* *are running this season, having a linebacker able to transition into different packages and stances is key. It's something Preston Smith is used to.
Check out images of rookie linebacker Preston Smith during his first few months with the Washington Redskins.
"I feel like it could go well because we had a lot of different looks on in college playing stand-up and I was doing a lot of drops, doing a lot of different defensive looks from standing up, and I feel like it'll be a great transition because it's something I'm used to and I'm familiar with," he said. "It won't be hard for me to."
Head coach Jay Gruden believes Smith will be utilized in various schemes to take advantage of that skillset, along with his strength and speed.
"In base defense he'll probably be standing up a little bit more and then come sub defense, he'll be with his hand down a lot and then he can still walk around," Gruden said. "I think it'll be an even split for him. He's getting used to it, but you can see his long body out there. He's a great looking kid and works extremely hard. We're happy for the versatility that he brings."
2. During OTAs, he was star struck by Ryan Kerrigan:Hey, it's natural. When you watch an NFL player on television throughout high school and college, and then end up getting drafted to play on their team, let alone right alongside them, some emotions are going to surface. Points for being honest, Preston.
"Sometimes I feel a little star struck. I'm just watching these guys, some of them played last year, now I'm actually on the field with them playing on a team," he admitted. "Seeing [Kerrigan] in the meeting room every day, seeing him every day just being star struck by him. You know he's the one of the best in the league in pass rushing. To actually play on a team with him is great."
3. McCloughan likes his SEC pedigree:Still considered the dominant conference in college football, the SEC is unique in its talent level and multitude of stadiums that boast NFL-sized crowds. It's a trait that has made the conference more desirable for general manager Scot McCloughan, influencing him to select players familiar with the size and scope of high-pressure gameday crowds.
Smith's time at Mississippi State made him an ideal player.
"You'll see as I go through each year more and more, you're going to see I do a lot of big school guys and a lot of SEC guys," McCloughan said. "That's important to me because they've been in the big games. They've been around 80,000 fans. They've been playing the Alabamas, they've been playing LSUs. It's not too big for them to come out here. So he's unique because he's got 34-and-a-half-inch arms and he's almost 6-5, he's 270 pounds and he can rush the passer. It's a great tandem."
4. He tries to pattern himself after Von Miller:Because of his ability to play in coverage, the edge or even nose guard in college, he modeled his game after linebackers (like the Broncos' Miller) that had similar versatility and strong hand skills at multiple positions.
"A lot of people compare me to Antonio Smith," he said. "I really haven't seen him play but I try to steal stuff from every great player who has a successful pass rush, players who have done a lot of successful stuff in technique – what they do that is special. I try to pattern myself from Von Miller, I steal moves from J.J. Watt, Justin Tuck – guys who I think will fit the mold what I may potentially do. They may not be my size or body build but they're close to it to do something impossible. Some people who are smaller can get away with it."
5. He might have the best hands on the team:Yes, you read that right. McCloughan thought as much at Smith's pro day, when the linebacker apparently caught some passes to show off his intercepting skills. I'm sure some wondered if he might as well play some tight end, too.
"You could see the athleticism on tape, no doubt about it," McCloughan said. "Just the flexibility in his lower body, his length, his arms. But at the pro day, they worked him as a linebacker. They dropped him, flipped his hips, made him catch the ball. He might have the best hands on our team when he comes in here. He's a unique athlete. I mean, it's impressive."
6. Smith has lined up against Scherff to get better:One of the benefits – and at least temporarily, challenges – for Smith has been facing off with fifth-overall pick Brandon Scherff.
So far, they have both complimented the others' play and look forward to making each other better players as they compete and learn their positions and roles on the team.
"He's a very physical guy who I've used to help me get better and I'll help him get better also," Smith said of Scherff. "I know he's a guy who they picked early in the first round and he brings a lot of ability to the offensive line. I look forward to keep on going against him to make myself better and help him get better along the way."
7. In a Facebook Q&A, Smith said his mother was his biggest inspiration:Some more highlights from the forum:
The best thing about Redskins Nation* *is that "our fan base is similar to college, lots of energy." He's planning to attain double digit sacks – "That's the goal! 10 ." In high school, "I started off playing LB, then DE, then I played some TE here and there." He looked up to "Julius Peppers and DeMarcus Ware coming up. I try to play like Ware because he's a freakish athlete that does a lot of jaw-dropping things while rushing the passer."