Justin Smiley, Ryan Robinson
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Justin Smiley was added to the Jacksonville Jaguars last week via a trade with the Miami Dolphins. What exactly can we expect from Justin Smiley as a Jaguar?
Smiley met with the media last week after his first official session of Jaguars OTA's, where he got some time at the left guard position.
Smiley hadn't practiced with a team since the season ended. "It was pretty awesome. I didn’t know really what to expect. It’s like coming to a new school when you’re a kid" Smiley told the media, "it was good to come out here and
knock the rust off." The Miami Dolphins had barred Smiley from the facility, fearing he may re-injure his shoulder that had him miss some time last season. He wasn't even allowed to lift.
The trade, as we all know, was pending on a physical that Smiley passed by all accounts with flying colors, however Smiley was pretty mum on the topic when asked, "I passed the physical so that’s pretty much what everybody needs to know." There is still some concern that Smiley's shoulder could present a problem down the line, but the Jaguars took a minimal risk when he was acquired. Though the exact parameters of the deal are still not yet known, it seems as though if Smiley doesn't meet a certain number of snaps or games, the compensation will be nothing.
"I’m really, really excited about it. I grew up right outside of Savannah so it’s close to home," Smiley told reporters about the change of location. Smiley is going to come in and compete for the left guard position, which he should win barring any medical setbacks, but he has played the right side in years past. "They brought me in to play left guard. That’s what they told me. That’s what I play. I did play right guard for two years but that was when Larry Allen came and you don’t argue with Larry. You just move over to the right and say, ‘Yes, sir.’"
The Dolphins offensive line was very stout with Smiley on the interior and suffered when he was out with injury. I asked Matty of ThePhinsider.com to give us a run down on Justin Smiley.
He's a very athletic guard best suited for pulling rather than straight-ahead bulldozing. In fact, ESPN named Smiley the NFL's top pulling guard last year. He's got quick feet for a 310 pound man and really excels getting out into the open field on sweeps or screens. He's also a leader in the locker room and was a big help in bringing along Jake Long, who spent his first two seasons playing next to Smiley.
On the flip side, he's not overly big or strong and he's an obvious injury risk. The Dolphins like very big, very strong linemen. But Smiley would get beat at the point of attack a little too often.
The two biggest factors resulting in this trade, though, were his injuries and his salary. He's missed too many games the past two seasons. It got to the point where he was a question mark every week - and I think that had to really irritate Tony Sparano. When you factor in the 3 years and over $12 million still owed to Smiley, it just didn't make sense to keep him. The coaches believe they have some depth at the guard position and that Smiley isn't worth the money he's owed compared to what the Dolphins can get out of their other (less expensive) guards.
It also came out last week that Jaguars general Manager Gene Smith had been targeting Justin Smiley since February of this year, and was very high on him when he came out of Alabama for the NFL draft in 2004. I think it's safe to assume that unless something happens with injury, Justin Smiley will be the Jaguars starting left guard. That means that Brad Meester, Kynan Forney, Vince Manuwai, and Uche Nwaneri will all be left competing for the center and right guard position. Two of those guys will win starting roles while one of the four could end up off of the roster by the end of training camp.
One thing is for sure, Justin Smiley is excited for his new opportunity, "It means a lot to me and I feel I need to run through brick walls for them."
Just don't hurt your shoulder running through brick walls, Justin.