During his first year as a member of the Raiders, Sean Smith struggled early. For example, we all remember Saints WR Brandin Cooks torching him for a 98-yard TD. Jack Del Rio benched him in the third quarter of that contest. After watching the 2016 season, two things ring true. First, Sean Smith could be a very good member of the secondary. Second, the possibility exists for a position move to free safety. The following are points to give belief to the fact that #21 could excel at free safety.
Size: For a corner, Smith’s size (6’3”, 218) strikes an imposing figure. On the other hand, his frame prevents him from stay with smaller, twitchy WR. Yet, as a free safety, Smith could body tight ends down the seam. With this is mind, only the very tall TE may give him fits. Additionally, free safeties provide support and are usually not locked on outside WR alone. Occasionally, Smith uses his frame incorrectly, trying to tangle with corners.
Speed: While Smith is not a speedy corner, he translates into a faster free safety. Plus, being far from the line of scrimmage prevents missed jams and footwork issues. Everything would play out in front of him. Given his issues with fluid footwork and high backpedal; Smith can trust his ability to run. At FS, a freedom to move freer exists. As a result, this should reduce the number of defensive holding penalties by Smith.
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CB Instincts: At heart, Smith sees himself as a corner. In reality and headed towards 30, his best CB may rest in his past. As a corner, you learn to anticipate routes and figure out patterns. Provided that free safeties must cover and read the QB’s eyes, Smith has the advantage. Meaning, if he operates in the deep middle and the receiver streaks his way, natural ball skills take over. Moreover, making plays downhill remains easier than running hip to hip downfield.
All things considered, Sean Smith’s future could lay at free safety. Granted, that isn’t what he prefers. But, the prospect should excite RaiderNation for years to come. With Smith at safety, he can concentrate solely on the ball. Currently, Reggie Nelson occupies the starting spot. Yet, with each year, the Raiders CB loses a step. Smith offers an in-house upgrade. Not saying he’s anywhere in their class, but Charles Woodson and Rod Woodson made successful transitions to safety. Why not Smith?