New England Patriots: will smith

Saints GM: Will Smith can help Patriots

May, 7, 2014
The Patriots hope they can squeeze at least one more season out of veteran defensive end Will Smith, and New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis thinks they have a good chance to do so.

"I think Will has tread left on his tire -- no doubt in my mind,” Loomis told Ramon Antonio Varga of The Advocate on Tuesday. "As long as he does a good job of rehabbing that injury, which I know he will and has ... he has a lot of football left in him."

Smith, who will wear No. 90 for the Patriots, was a first-round draft choice of the Saints in 2004. The Patriots liked him coming out of Ohio State that year, but the Saints picked him three slots ahead of where the Patriots ultimately grabbed Vince Wilfork at No. 21.

Loomis thinks Smith, who was part of a salary purge in New Orleans, landed in the right spot.

"I’m excited he’s going to have this opportunity with a great organization and a team that has a chance to go to the Super Bowl,” Loomis told the Advocate. "They’re a championship-caliber team with championship-caliber people. It’s a perfect place for Will."

Photo: Will Smith in Patriots gear

May, 5, 2014
Veteran defensive end Will Smith, who signed with the New England Patriots on Monday, posted a picture on Instagram with the caption: My New Home, Let's Go Patriots!!!!


Leftovers from weekly Pats chat

April, 4, 2014
A few leftovers from our weekly New England Patriots chat:

Evan (NJ): Hi Mike, in the AFC Championship Game last year, our pass rush was nearly nonexistent. I think we definitely need to sign a strong pass rusher to give Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich some relief. Do you see the draft or free agency as being the better option?

Evan, I do think we'll see an addition at defensive end behind Jones and Ninkovich, as the team has explored veteran Will Smith as one possibility. But another point to consider is how a pass rush comes from more places than just the defensive end spot. A better interior push will also be a factor and the team should upgrade in that area if Armond Armstead emerges as a contributor. I could also see Jamie Collins being more of a factor in this area. Better coverage also helps the rush and the Patriots look pretty solid in the secondary right now.

James (England): If, as you suggested, linebacker Ryan Shazier is an option in the first round, do you project him as playing inside or outside?

James, I think Shazier is best suited off the line, so it would depend on what defense the team is in. Part of my thinking with Shazier is that 70 percent of defense is played in sub anyway and he could ultimately be a big part of that. Also, there is a pretty notable dropoff after the top three linebackers of Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins and more quality depth is needed.

Joe (Waltham): Mike, do you think the Patriots draft a QB in this draft? Obviously the visits of Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater were nothing more than educating themselves more on the draft board, but if someone like AJ McCarron falls to the bottom of the 2nd or even the 3rd, do you think they consider it?

Yes, Joe, I think that is a distinct possibility. A late second-round pick seems a bit rich to me for a quarterback but I think anything after that is in play. Just as Ryan Mallett was a third-round pick in 2011, it wouldn't surprise me if the team picked a quarterback that early this year if the right prospect is there (e.g. Pittsburgh's Tom Savage).

Earl (Marlborough, Mass.): I thought that Will Svitek filled in pretty admirably for injuries early on in the season, and he has versatility. What is his likelihood of return as depth on OL?

Earl, Svitek helped the Patriots through an early stretch of injuries in the preseason but by the end of the season, it was notable to me that rookie Josh Kline was thrust into action over him. Part of that could have been due to Svitek battling an injury. My sense is that the plan would be to turn that guard position over to a younger (less expensive) player like Kline or Chris Barker, knowing that the team goes three deep at tackle with Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer and Marcus Cannon.

Carlos (Maine): Mike, why is it just assumed that Ryan Mallett is gone next year?

Carlos, Mallett enters the final year of his contract in 2014 and thus is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at this time next year. With Tom Brady entrenched as the starter here, and signed through 2017, it makes sense to think that Mallett will likely want to pursue a better chance to start elsewhere. The door should never be slammed shut on Mallett's return, but I'd think the odds wouldn't favor it at this point.

Film review on DE Will Smith

April, 3, 2014
The New England Patriots visited with free-agent defensive end Will Smith on Tuesday, and that led us back to watch some film of Smith to get a feel for his style of play.

Because Smith tore his ACL and missed the 2013 season, it required a look back to the 2012 season. Three games were watched -- the season-opener against the Redskins, a Week 5 matchup against the Chargers, and the season finale against the Panthers.

Alignment. In Steve Spagnuolo's 4-3 scheme, Smith almost always lined up at right defensive end. At times he reduced inside, usually in obvious passing situations, and he'd drop into coverage on a rare occasion. He stayed on the field on all three downs and was subbed out for a series every now and then.

Physicality and power stands out. Smith is a physical player who is more apt to win with power than elusiveness or diverse pass-rushing moves. He will initiate contact and has a good get-off. His size (282 pounds) presents an issue when matched up against tight ends as he uses his hands well to disengage (e.g. powering through Randy McMichael for a sack). He drew two obvious holding penalties in the three games watched.

Run defense struggled. Teams ran at Smith with some success. In fairness, this was a year in which the Saints' run defense struggled under Spagnuolo, who was replaced by Rob Ryan the following season. Smith's pad level seemed to rise on some plays, which helped blockers turn him. Smith's effort level was high as he regularly chased plays away from him.

How he could help New England. Smith would offer a different type of pass-rushing option for the Patriots because of his power, assuming his knee is recovered from a torn ACL that sidelined him last year. It's a bit of a different approach from the Patriots' other two top ends, Chandler Jones (longer and quicker off the edge) and Rob Ninkovich (high-motor technician). As initially projected, Smith would probably be best in a scaled-back role similar to what Andre Carter played in 2013, with his primary responsibility to play forward in a pass-rushing role. His presence would also provide flexibility to move Jones inside in passing situations, which the Patriots did with some success last year.

Patriots eyed Will Smith in '04 draft

April, 1, 2014
Bill Belichick's scouting files can sometimes come in handy, even 11 years after the fact.

That thought came to mind Tuesday with news that free-agent defensive end Will Smith (Saints) was visiting the Patriots. Smith was on the Patriots' radar in the 2004 draft.

"He was certainly a guy we had a lot of interest in," Belichick said in 2009 when asked about Smith prior to a Patriots-Saints game. "He's a big guy who can run, rush the passer, pursue well, strong player at the point of attack, athletic, plays on his feet. He's got a group of skills, plays hard, been productive. I think he's been the player people thought he would be."

The question to ask at this point, 11 years later, is if Smith still has something left in the tank to help the Patriots.

If Belichick and his staff determine that he does, a potential role should be pretty straight-forward.

Reflecting on the 2004 draft, Belichick said he didn't view Smith as an outside linebacker/defensive end hybrid as much as a pure pass-rusher. It wasn't necessarily that Smith couldn't drop into coverage, but Belichick compared the situation to Julius Peppers in that a coach wouldn't want to drop him into coverage because it took him away from doing what he does best -- rushing the passer.

Smith ended up going 18th overall to the Saints. The Patriots then drafted Vince Wilfork 21st overall.

Smith's visit to New England sparks thoughts of the possibility that the duo could be lining up alongside each other in 2014.

Clayton: DE Will Smith visiting Pats

April, 1, 2014
Free-agent defensive end Will Smith, formerly of the New Orleans Saints, is visiting the New England Patriots today, a source tells senior writer John Clayton.

The 6-foot-3, 282-pound Smith has spent his entire career with the Saints (2004-2013) and was released Feb. 12, in part because of salary-cap considerations. He was due $11.55 million in salary and bonuses in the final year of his contract.

Smith, who ranks fourth in Saints history with 67.5 career sacks, missed last season because of a torn ACL.

The 32-year-old Smith would likely project to an Andre Carter-type nickel-rushing role in New England, where ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich are locked in as starters. The Patriots' need at the position was highlighted Monday, as there is a notable drop-off after Jones and Ninkovich.

Pats were high on Smith in '04 draft

November, 28, 2009
FOXBOROUGH, Mass., -- Holding the 21st selection in the 2004 draft, the Patriots watched the board unfold and were thrilled when defensive lineman Vince Wilfork was available.

Another player on their radar is one they'll see Monday night -- defensive end Will Smith, who went 18th overall to the Saints.

"He was certainly a guy we had a lot of interest in," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "He's a big guy who can run, rush the passer, pursue well, strong player at the point of attack, athletic, plays on his feet. He's got a group of skills, plays hard, been productive. I think he's been the player people thought he would be."

Smith's 8.5 sacks lead the Saints this season, and he most likely will be matched up against the Patriots' left tackle, whether it's Sebastian Vollmer, Matt Light or Mark LeVoir.

Thinking back to 2004, when Smith was coming out of Ohio State, Belichick didn't view him as an outside linebacker/defensive end type hybrid for the Patriots.

Belichick compared the situation to Julius Peppers, saying that while he could probably play outside linebacker, a team wouldn't want to drop him into coverage because it would take him away from doing what he does best -- rushing the passer.

Belichick was asked if it would be accurate that Smith was one of the few players he had in mind as a possibility for the Patriots in the first round of that 2004 draft.

"Yeah, sure," he said. "Any team I'm coaching, if you can get a good defensive lineman, you'd consider it. I don't care where it was, what the situation was, how many of them you might think you'd have. You really can't have too many of those guys if they're good."