The deal for Hayden Smith was finalized and announced Saturday. But who and what exactly have the Jets signed?
Smith is an Aussie athlete who was a Denver Division II basketball player and is still a pro rugby standout? The Green & White have done their share of cross-training over the years but such free agent signings of former wrestlers and basketball players and soccer standouts (think Pete Carroll, Jets, 1994 and Tony Meola) don’t often pay off for any NFL team.
Yet it only takes one once in a while to make it worth while. And Smith has got some things going for him as he attempts to make a little roster room for himself among the Rob Gronkowskis, Antonio Gateses and Dustin Kellers of the league. As Sam Monson said in his latest piece for ProFootballFocus.com today, “
“The first and most obvious thing that Smith has going for him is raw athletic talent. He played basketball in college before taking up rugby. Without meeting the NFL prerequisites for athleticism, Smith wouldn’t have a hope, but from his reported 4.75 40 time and his size, he qualifies. That athleticism is the reason that he was able to ascend rapidly in the rugby world to being a significant member of the US national team, but also (and perhaps more importantly), become a valuable squad player for Saracens rugby club of the English Premier division.”
Smith’s dimensions are a little more impressive than the 6’7″ and 240 pounds we pegged him at Saturday. He worked at the Senior Bowl this year and measured at 6’6″ and 265, a frame that he reportedly moves at 4.75-second speed in the 40. You can watch some of his drills in this YouTube piece, if you haven’t already checked it out.
And you can read Monson’s entire story at ProFootballFocus here. In one of his concluding remarks Monson compares Smith to Martin Johnson, another top rugby lock forward who participated in the 49ers’ 2001 training camp:
“Hayden Smith is a new breed of rugby player, and though he plays the same position as Johnson did, he represents a much more intimidating level of athlete — one that can meet the NFL standards by raw numbers alone.”
As for whether Smith can navigate all the other shoals of making it to an NFL roster, or even a practice squad, we’ll be covering that on newyorkjets.com when we talk with him, Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum and assistant GM Scott Cohen, head coach Rex Ryan and others about this and many other topics as the offseason continues to head inexorably toward the 2012 season.
Five Fun Facts for This Year’s Yearbook
One of the things we do this time of year, besides presenting stories and blogs on current Jets and our annual predraft package, is to begin to fill in the pages of the Jets’ yearbook. One of the tasks in that regard is to come up with a fun factoid for each player who will have a page in the player section of the book — and this year that may mean around 90 factoids for the 90 players who may be coming to camp (assuming the NFL passes the expanded roster limit at its next meeting).
Not all of the facts and notes will find a place in the book, but here are five that are of interest at this early stage of the process. And I’ll pitch five more and five more after that down the road as we head toward Cortland and 2012 training camp.
■ Mo Lewis lives in two of the factoids I’ve roughed out. David Harris had four interceptions last year, the most by a Jets linebacker since Lewis pilfered the same number of picks in 1994. And then there’s Calvin Pace — including the playoffs, CP has totaled 28 sacks in his four Jets seasons, which are the most by a Jets LB in a four-year span since Mo racked up 30.5 sacks from 1997-2000.
■ A neat number on Shonn Greene concerns his knack for not getting tackled in the Jets’ backfield. According to Stats Inc., Greene was “stuffed” (tackled for loss) just 16 times in his 253 carries, a 6.3 percent rate that was second-best among the 53 RBs with at least 100 carries last year and best among the 31 backs with at least 150 carries. That tendency came in handy en route to Shonn’s first 1,000-yard season as a pro, 1,054 to be exact.
■ We duly noted rookie free agent TE Josh Baker’s big contribution to the offense, his 5-yard walk-in touchdown reception against the Giants. But did you know that Baker was born on Christmas Day in 1986 and that his first pro TD came on Dec. 24? An early holiday gift for the young man from Chesapeake, Va. (hometown), Delaware (his first college stop) and Northwest Missouri State (his last college).
■ One stat I didn’t do justice to regarding T.J. Conley’s first season as a pro punter was that he had 32 inside-the-20 punts last season. That’s a pretty good number — in fact, it was tied for third-most in the NFL. And if you add Conley’ 32 I-20’s to Steve Weatherford’s 42 from 2010 that tied the NFL record, the Jets’ 74 inside-the-20s over the past two seasons easily leads the league.
■ And while we did document Joe McKnight’s kickoff-return heroics well, here are a few items that I may not have noted prominently if at all: McKnight’s 31.6-yard average (on 34 runbacks) broke the Jets’ season franchise record of 30.7 (on 22 returns) set by then-rookie Bobby Humphery in 1984. And that averaged was the best in the NFL in the last 25 years. And while it’s possible that kickoffs from the 35 had something to do with McKnight’s success, it bears considering that No. 2 in the league was Green Bay’s Randall Cobb at 27.7, almost four yards less per return than Mighty Joe.
Confirming Jets-Giants Particulars
We tweeted it last week and it’s been up on our schedule page, but in case anyone missed it, the Jets-Giants preseason date and time were firmed up a day after the NFL released the preseason schedule. Jets-Giants SummerFest No. 44 (as in the 44th consecutive summer the teams are meeting) will be held at MetLife Stadium(where else?) on Saturday, Aug. 18, with kickoff set for 7 p.m. ET.
Tags: Calvin Pace, David Harris, Dustin Keller, Hayden Smith, joe McKnight, Mo Lewis, Rob Gronkowski, Shonn Greene, Tony Meola
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