Journey leads Bucs DE Jacquies Smith to big chanceTampa Bay Buccaneers Jacquies Smith was an All-Big 12 selection as a junior and senior. CHRIS URSO/STAFF By Roy Cummings | Tribune Staff Published: August 5, 2015 TAMPA — He certainly didn’t go unnoticed. How could he when he spent his junior season playing alongside Aldon Smith, the Missouri linebacker who became one of the most coveted players in the 2011 NFL draft?Besides, he was an All-Big 12 selection as a junior and senior, and in between made the watch list for the 2012 Lombardi Award, given annually to college football’s top defensive lineman.So how, exactly, did Jacquies Smith slip through the cracks and onto a career path that for three years had him darting around the map like a presidential candidate on the campaign trail?The Buccaneers’ projected starter at right defensive end still isn’t sure. But after three years and three previous stops, one of the key components in the Bucs’ pass rush finally has his chance to make an impact in the NFL.“It’s been tough, sure,’’ said Smith, 25. “But, at the end of the day, this journey has probably been a blessing, because it’s things like that that carve out the person you wind up being.’’At 6-foot-2, 253 pounds, Smith didn’t come out of college looking like a prototypical right-edge pass rusher. And though he ran a 4.59-second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine, he never really displayed the ability to draw, much less beat, a double team.Undrafted, Smith signed with the Miami Dolphins, but was released just before the 2012 season. That’s when he took his career in an odd direction. Against his agent’s advice, Smith signed with the Hamilton Tigers Cats of the Canadian Football League.“My agent was telling me to just hold off for a couple of weeks, but I was so anxious to play that I wanted to go somewhere where someone wanted me and the (Tiger Cats) wanted me,’’ Smith said.But Hamilton, Ontario, was a long way from Smith’s home in Dallas.“That was probably the first time in my life I’d ever felt homesick,” he said. “I love playing this game, but I love my family, too. It just wasn’t fun for me.’’Smith returned to the NFL in December 2012 with the New York Jets, but was again released after less than a year.Looking back, Smith is glad. After another three months of waiting, Smith signed with the Buffalo Bills in December 2013 and, after an entire offseason with Buffalo, got what he considers his first real chance to prove himself during the 2014 preseason.“They gave me more of a chance to play that preseason than any team I’d been with,’’ Smith said. “I kind of got to showcase my skills a little more and open some eyes.’’Smith opened some eyes all right. Inside their meeting room, while preparing for their preseason game with Buffalo, members of the Bucs’ defensive line corps couldn’t take their eyes off of him.“On the film he kept standing out,’’ defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “In our room we kept asking, ‘Who is this guy?’”In his office at One Buc Place, general manager Jason Licht was asking the same thing. By the end of the preseason, Smith’s name on Licht’s wish list.““It was his get-off, his burst off the ball that excited us,” Licht said. “If a guy’s got that, we figure we can teach him the rest. So we thought, if he becomes available, we should take a shot at him.’’After Week 1 of the 2014 season, to make room on the roster for linebacker Nigel Bradham’s return from a one-game suspension, Buffalo waived Smith.The Bucs pounced, claiming Smith off waivers in hopes he could add a little energy to their ailing pass rush.Little did they know Smith would soon give their rush a spark. Working almost exclusively on the left side, Smith recorded 6.5 sacks, second only to McCoy’s team-high 8.5 last year. Smith also had 20 quarterback hurries — again, second only to McCoy’s 27 — and a quarterback hit, according to ProFootballFocus.As a result, Smith is on the move yet again.This time, though, he’s only moving down the line — to right end, the position he played most often in college when he earned all those Big 12 honors.It’s the latest in a long line of attempts by the Bucs to fill the pass-rushing hole they’ve had at right end since Simeon Rice departed eight seasons ago. And none other than McCoy thinks they might finally have the right piece.“Jack was (just learning our system) last year and he still had the impact he did,’’ McCoy said of Smith, entering the final year of his contract with Tampa Bay. “This year he’s a lot more relaxed. He kind of has more of a vet feel to him, so he’s ready to go. He truly believes he can be that (impact) guy, and I do as well.’’So, do the Bucs, obviously. And as odd as it seems, it’s probably because of all those stops he made along the way that Smith also believes he’s finally ready to be the impact player he always thought he could be.“Having been around some great players in all the different places I’ve been, I’ve taken a lot of bits and pieces from all those guys and made them a part of my game, too,’’ he said. “So I’m a much better player now, a more confident player.“And I know there are expectations and that they’re very high for me. But what I want to do is go out and exceed those expectations. I want to prove I’m one of the best and I deserve to be out there.’’
It would be great if the brother turns into something. But that is a tall order. They need to draft a pass rusher. Those guys don’t hit free agency unless there is major baggage attached. Like whats his name from the Saints. I am hoping the first rounder next year is a DE.
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