All Eyes on Smith

The Oakland Raiders returned home Sunday for their first of three straight home games. A hapless Baltimore offense traveled to Oakland for a tilt that seemed to favor a struggling Raiders team. The Ravens came to town having scored just 16 points in two weeks. Furthermore, Joe Flacco has thrown 6 picks through 4 games (3rd worst in the NFL). In what seemed like a matchup that favored an Oakland defense that kept their team in the last two games, the defense crumbled from the start…namely Sean Smith.

Sean Smith Continues to Struggle

#21 lived up to the reputation he earned in 2016 by getting burnt early and often. It was quickly apparent that Baltimore did their film study as they targeted Smith in space from the outset. On their first play from scrimmage, Baltimore sent wide receiver Mike Wallace on a streak route. After recognizing the much slower Smith was in 1-on-1 coverage and seeing Nelson drop straight back into coverage, Flacco let one fly over Sean’s head to a sprinting Wallace who had easily gained separation upon release. In turn, Smith and Nelson found themselves on the ugly end of a 52-yard bomb.

Baltimore knew what they were facing in Smith, had practiced for it in advance, and executed when the time came. Here’s Mike Wallace to tell you what we already know:

Were the Raiders Finessed by KC?

In 2015, Oakland entered into negotiations with the former Chief when they were in the market for a shutdown corner. Negotiations with Smith’s agent were lengthy and it seemed as if Smith would stay in KC at that time. At the 11th hour, Raiders fans were informed that they landed their coveted prize in free agency. But what exactly did they get? Was KC interested in re-signing Smith, or were they running up the price tag?

In this article from Arrowhead Pride, every single snap taken by the then to be prized defensive free agent in 2015 was evaluated to determine his worth. The verdict:

Because of Smith’s speed and quickness limitations (he doesn’t have the smoothest hips you’ll see either, though it’s not to the same degree as his speed), there are certain kinds of receivers that give him problems. Sammy Watkins tore him up on multiple snaps. DeAndre Hopkins did as well. Of course, both of those guys are very difficult to cover for virtually any corner. More significant was the occasional fits lesser WR’s gave him when they had good speed and quickness. Examples of this were in the Wild Card playoff game and against the Bears. In both games Smith got beat multiple times by relatively anonymous receivers.

What’s more, the article goes on to defend Smith and states that his size and technique have been enough to mask his speed deficiency. Smith’s technique and physicality have yet to show up in Oakland and it’s beginning to look like they never will. Furthermore, Smith is getting no help over the top from an aging Reggie Nelson (perhaps it’s time to give Luani a shot?).

Ok, But What is he Actually Worth?

The article concludes with a final evaluation of Smith’s value and the result is worth noting:

Smith is not an elite corner, and the gap is wide enough that I would be against paying him elite level money (even though market forces generally dictate good players getting elite money, but that’s a whole separate article). However, if Smith is willing to sign a contract that pays him an average of $9-11 million per year on average (and remember, the per-year hit will not necessarily be that $9-11 million), I think the Chiefs should jump at that chance.

Sean’s current PFF grade seems to support all of what you just read:

Sean’s assignment, Mike Wallace, finished the day with 133 yards on just three catches. Joe Flacco maintained a 118 quarterback rating when targeting Wallace on Sunday. All things considered, Oakland fought their way back in the game but failed to stop the run in the 4th quarter. It’s not all on you Sean, but we see you.

Quick Hits:
  • Oakland’s defense allowed 100 yards rushing for the first time this season.
  • The Raiders are one of three defenses in the NFL without an interception.
  • Karl Joseph finished the day as the highest rated Oakland Raider.
  • EJ Manuel flashed elusive at times on Sunday connecting with Crabtree on this heave after scramble and again on his own to convert this 3rd down.
  • Cooper was overlooked all day despite being open often on Sunday as referenced by coach Jack Del Rio. Two times #89 was missed on what could have been touchdown opportunities.

Written by: Kenny Stapler

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