- Eric D. Williams, ESPN Staff Writer
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – He might not be mentioned with the likes of Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, but Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith can make a defense pay with his legs.
Just ask Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano.
“The first thing I see on tape is how athletic he is and how Coach Andy Reid uses him to move outside the pocket with his ability to run,” Pagano said. “He has the ability to get away when there is trouble. You see on film where guys think they have him wrapped up and he is able to spin out of that and run for the first down. His athletic ability is tremendous.”
Smith is sixth in the NFL in rushing among quarterbacks with 318 yards on 58 carries, a robust 5.5 yards a carry. That’s more rushing yards than some other quarterbacks known for using their legs like Michael Vick (308 yards), Andrew Luck (231) and Jake Locker (155).
Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor leads all quarterbacks in rushing yards with 505, followed by Wilson (409), Griffin (345), Kaepernick (335) and Newton (328).
Smith also has picked up 16 first downs running the ball, effectively moving the chains when his team needs a play.
The No 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft, Smith ran the spread-option under Urban Meyer at Utah. The San Diego native clocked a 4.71-second, 40-yard dash at the NFL combine and posted a 32-inch vertical leap at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, so Smith is plenty athletic.
The Chargers are 3-4 against running quarterbacks this season, including wins over Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Dallas, and losses against Tennessee, Oakland, Miami and Washington. So staying disciplined and rallying to the ball when Smith runs will again be a point of emphasis for Pagano’s defense.
“When you are watching film and going through the process of first, second and third down, and you see the passes, you have to be smart with your rush lanes because he’ll go out there and convert a first down in a heartbeat,” Pagano said. “It’s something that if he doesn’t have an option or doesn’t see and option, he has the athleticism to make a play. He is one of the most athletic quarterbacks out there. Once again, we have to do a great job of containing a mobile quarterback running around.”