The NFL hasn’t always been easy for Jacksonville Jaguars defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot. He has had plenty of lows, especially during the first two years of his career. Now, heading into year four, he’s ready to make more of an impact, and simply do what it takes “put some W’s on the board.”
Drafted in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Smoot didn’t exactly transition into the NFL as he, and all athletes making the jump, would have expected. Everyone expects to immediately come into the NFL and have double-digit sacks during his rookie season like Jaguars defensive end Josh Allen, Smoot told the media via virtual video conference on Tuesday.
That didn’t happen for Smoot, however. During the first 24 games of his NFL career, Smoot had a grand total of 0 sacks, something that obviously impacted him, and perhaps gave him a bit of “uncertainty” about his career, he says, not knowing whether or not he would even make the team.
“The stat sheet is not showing exactly what I’m doing,” said Smoot. “I know that whenever I got out there, I’ll get a tackle for loss here and there, just making plans here and there, but I never really had that true sack until last year. I feel like my motivation really came, it didn’t necessarily come from the team, it came from my family.
“Once I had my kid and everything like that, I feel like I had somebody who was leaning on me, somebody was depending on me. I had no other choice but to go get it last year. I just put my head down and worked.”
The motivation showed; it showed not only off the football field, but on it, too. Last season, Smoot accounted for six sacks - the first six sacks of his career -, good for the fourth-most on the team behind Allen (10.5), Yannick Ngakoue (8) and Calais Campbell (6.5). What sets him apart, however, is Smoot played in just 38% of the team’s defensive snaps last season, while also playing several roles on defense.
“I mean I came in as a rush [end], then I got moved to big end and now I’m a big end or am I a rush? I don’t really know, and I’ve played every position on the line at the point,” Smoot said frankly.
“But the great point about that is that I know every position, so people are able to come to me and ask me questions and stuff. Emotionally, now, I’m at a point where I’m just trying to lead as much as I can and help out any guys that comes in even if I’m starting or I’m second string or anything like that.”
Being a versatile defensive end will pay major dividends for Smoot this season; the team is currently suffering from major attrition along the defensive front four, and every body is needed to make an impact.
“Our philosophy’s always been, I’m pretty sure you guys have always heard this, ‘next man up.’ We have some dogs on the d-line even though we’re thin and we’re getting new people in every day.”
Never one to miss an opportunity to get better, Smoot has undergone several transitions with his body. He’s gained weight, lost weight, and gained it again. While he has undergone a lot of hurdles in his career, defensive line coach Jason Rebrovich says Smoot and himself have the candid conversations about what it’ll take for him to get on the field more.
“Dawuane and I, we’ve sat down on several occasions, throughout his career that he’s been here, and they’ve all been great conversations,” Rebrovich told members of the media on Tuesday. “You know, we all leave that room, whether—we don’t sit there point out, ‘You’re right, you’re right, you’re wrong, you’re wrong.’ We walk out that room and we say, ‘Hey man, once we close that door, whatever we decided in this room, that’s what we’re going with.’
“And he’s been really good at holding up that end of what we’re asking him to do and it shows. The guy has gone out there—and to piggyback on what you said, from a year ago obviously that hard work paid off for him and hopefully it benefits for us here in the near future.”
Over the past couple of offseasons, Smoot has took up a new hobby in order to get better on the gridiron - martial arts. He’s already seen the impact martial arts has had for him on the field.
“I would definitely say my strength and being able to shed blocks, that got way better, tremendously better,” said Smoot. “I’ll give all that credit to Rise and Grind because I’ve been working a bunch on my strength there and lifting and doing whatever I can to be able to stop the run so that’s my goal.”
Entering his fourth season, Smoot isn’t concerned about being in his contract year, and certainly doesn’t want it to distract him. For now, he is entering a place in his career where he can take on a leadership role, and help the team win in anyway possible. But, that doesn’t mean he wants to disregard his stats.
“I’m definitely comfortable I would say within my role like leadership wise and being able to help out all the guys but I’m definitely not comfortable with any of my stats or like what I’m able to do on the field. I’m trying to get more. I’m trying to go for more. I’m trying to get double digits and do whatever I can for the team and put some W’s on the board. That’s my goal at the end of the day.”