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Monday, August 27, 2012
So much for coaching up Jason Smith

By Mike Sando

The St. Louis Rams hoped new coaching could turn around Jason Smith's career.

That didn't last long.

Smith, the tackle St. Louis selected second overall in 2009, is headed to the New York Jets for veteran tackle Wayne Hunter. This amounts to the Rams cutting their losses and getting something in return while they could.

Smith, like Hunter, was recently benched by his team. But with former Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer holding the same job in St. Louis, the Rams know what they're getting in return, at least. Hunter, 31, started all 16 games for the Jets last season. He started five games previously since entering the NFL with Seattle in 2003.

Smith, 26, has 26 starts in three seasons. Injuries have slowed him, but Smith hasn't played well consistently even when healthy. According to coaches, Smith can be overly aggressive at the expense of technique, particularly in pass protection. The Rams' new line coach, Paul T. Boudreau, showed clips featuring retired Rams great Orlando Pace in an effort to illustrate the value of patience in sound line play.

The Rams replaced Smith in the lineup with Barry Richardson during camp.

Smith's trade for relatively little in return marks the latest early first-round failure from a weak 2009 class.

That draft has defied convention for NFC West teams in particular.

San Francisco fared better using a first-round pick for Michael Crabtree, a receiver, than the Rams and Seahawks fared selecting players at seemingly safer positions. Arizona fared better than the Rams and Seahawks by using the 31st overall choice for running back Beanie Wells.

Linebacker Aaron Curry, chosen fourth overall by Seattle, was supposedly the "safest" player in the 2009 draft. The Seahawks traded him to Oakland and ate much of his salary to facilitate the deal.

While some had doubts about Smith's worthiness as the second overall choice, offensive linemen drafted early tend to start for years even if they fail to meet expectations. Robert Gallery comes to mind. Smith still might follow a similar path, but there's little evidence to suggest he will.

James Laurinaitis, Bradley Fletcher and Darell Scott remain from the Rams' 2009 class. The team previously parted with fifth-rounder Brooks Foster, sixth-rounder Keith Null and seventh-rounder Chris Ogbonnaya.