When the Indianapolis Colts drafted Braden Smith early in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, it was assumed that he would slide in at right guard. Throughout training camp, he has earned opportunities at right tackle.
With Denzelle Good unable to participate due to injury, the move was made partially out of necessity. Also, when Austin Howard failed to establish himself, there was no reason to not give young players an opportunity — if for no other reason than allowing them to get reps at another position in case of an injury during the regular season.
Last week, against the Seattle Seahawks, I thought Smith looked better at tackle than he did at guard. The Colts front office must have agreed as they gave him a chance to start outside against the Ravens on Monday night.
Today, we take a look at performance, starting with his snaps in the running game.
We will start by focusing on the negative plays.
As we noted last week, Smith is not particularly gifted when he is asked to pull. He pulls inside on this play but is so slow to get into the gap that the defender is already through the hole and forces Christine Michael to bounce outside. If he takes a better angle and doesn’t loop around the backside of Matt Slauson, he can get a body on the defender and force him inside, creating a clean running lane straight ahead.
The only other negative play on the ground for Smith is this holding call. To be fair, the play was supposed to go up the gut on second and short. Erik Swoope is driven so far into the backfield that Michael is forced to bounce the play outside, and Smith is left grabbing jersey. This is correctable.
The first two plays in this story were the only negative plays for Smith in the running game in 14 total snaps. Most of his snaps looked more like this play.
He is able to get immediate leverage on the defender, turn him to the outside, and open a running lane to the inside for Christine Michael.
This is another example of gaining immediate leverage and forcing the defender to the outside. He has enough strength to give a lot of space.
Here, Smith gets to the second level and pivots around the defender to seal off a running lane for Jordan Wilkins. This is one of two seven yard runs in a row for Wilkins.
Smith wins the initial block by driving the defender back four yards off of the line of scrimmage. He peels off at the end to put a body on the linebacker and seal him off from making a play to the inside as well.
This is another example of Smith allowing the defender to take himself out of the running lane and pivoting to gain leverage to open the hole. Wilkins saw a nice lane forming in front of him as Smith forced the defender to the outside.
Overall, when Smith is asked to take on a defender one-on-one, he gets the job done. When he is asked to pull or move laterally, he struggles. He will need to get out of the habit of grabbing for defenders when plays breakdown but otherwise, he is strong enough at the point of attack to get a good push in the ground game and has a good feel for when to pivot his hips to seal a defender off from the play direction.
This was a solid outing for Smith.