After a solid performance on run downs, we now take a look at Smith’s performance in pass protection. The Colts were slightly imbalanced to the pass against the Baltimore Ravens, with 22 passing plays against 14 rushes. The following plays stood out.
If there is anything that should excite Colts fans about Smith’s performance against Baltimore it is that this is the only play that I could mark as “negative” in pass protection. It is clear that Smith is beat by an inside swim move, allowing the defender to force Luck out of his stance and up into the pocket. Ideally, Smith keeps the defender in front of him. Under different circumstances, this could have led to a sack.
On this play, Smith is able to kick slide back into position to keep Terrell Suggs from generating pressure on Andrew Luck. With nothing else developing in front of him, Luck escapes out of the pocket anyway, but Smith has Suggs under control.
Smith completely shuts down the defender on this snap. He gives no ground and doesn’t allow the defender to gain inside or outside leverage. It doesn’t get much better than this for Luck.
What I like about this play is that Smith recognizes quickly that he needs to stick with the outside defender. We’ve seen tackles make the wrong choice on this play, sticking to the inside to help the guard. When this happens, the edge rusher has a free lane and forces a quick release or gets a free shot at the quarterback.
Similar to the play above, Smith quickly recognizes his assignment, stonewalls the defender’s attempt to get to the outside, and has the balance to stay in front for the entire play. There is no pressure on Luck from the right side of the offensive line here.
This play shows Smith playing through the whistle. It would be easy to get lulled to sleep after maintaining a block for more than 4 seconds but he keeps his feet moving and stays in front of the defender.
The defender attempts to get Smith off balance with a jab step to the inside. It doesn’t work. Additionally, Smith is aware that the running back is behind him on this play but still maintains the block. Michael is free to release as a safety valve if Brissett needs somewhere to go with the ball.
Watching the game in person, I identified a number of issues on the offensive line. While it is difficult to pinpoint the reason a play breaks down in real time — especially without the right angle — it is easy to expect who might be the culprit. Monday night, left tackle Le’Raven Clark was clearly playing at the most challenging offensive line spot on the roster and Braden Smith is a rookie guard prospect getting his first opportunity to run with the first team at right tackle.
Suffice to say, if you were betting on where offensive line weaknesses would show, those are two spots you would pick out. It is a breath of fresh air that Smith followed up what I thought was a surprisingly solid performance against the Seahawks in the second half last week with another, even more impressive, performance against Ravens’ starters on Monday night.
I am starting to believe that Smith may be solid option at right tackle if he is needed there... even as a starter.