Florham Park, N.J.– On the first day of training camp, as the media approached the practice field for their first look at this season’s Jets team, there were a lot of murmurs and whispers flying around about one very large man.
“Who is that guy?”
Is what everyone was asking each other as they frantically scrolled through their roster sheets in hopes of identifying the mystery man.
All the eyes were set on the group of wide receivers that were casually strolling through walk-thru, originally those eyes were set at the target of newly acquired receiver, Plaxico Burress (who is 6’5″ 232 pounds), but he was immediately recognized and identified. The curiosity and fascination then quickly switched to, who was this other 6’5″ 230 pound receiver lining up for the Jets?
Turns out that guy was the undrafted rookie out of South Alabama, number 3, Courtney Smith. When you see the groups of linemen, 6’5″ doesn’t standout much, or at all, but among receivers that type of size makes you stick out like Bill Belichick in a crowd full of people having fun.
With his size, Courtney Smith certainly looks the part of an NFL receiver, but as an undrafted rookie the question is can he successfully live up to his physical stature?
The scouting reports on Smith all say the obvious, that he has elite size and strength, but they also say he knows how to use his body to his advantage. Of course there are weaknesses listed in the scouting reports as well such as, he’s not exactly winning many races between other receivers (4.62 40 time) and his hands could certainly use improving.
But when you come in at 6’5″ 230, you’re going to get a chance to play in the NFL. What one does with that chance is the key, many have squandered their chances while others have grabbed on and never let go. In Smith’s case it’s obviously too early to tell what type of success he will have, but he’s already doing everything in his power to learn from those around him and make the most out of this chance that he has been given.
“I feel pretty strong about being with the organization and everything, it’s really a helpful organization.” Smith told JetsInsider, “All the older players, and younger players that are catching on pretty fast, are helping us along and everything throughout the camp process.”
Since the release of Jerricho Cotchery there has been a lot of talk about how old this Jets receiving core is (Mason 37, Plaxico 33 and Holmes 27), but these young rookies are thrilled about the experienced players ahead of them and are using this opportunity to soak up every last bit of advice the old men are willing to impart on them.
“Being I’m one of those young receivers that they (the veteran receivers) are putting aside, it’s great to be around them because years ago I was one of those players that was watching them play and I was like ‘I want to be where they’re at,’ and I get the chance to be next to them, actually get pointers from them.” Smith said, “Just taking in everything they know and they’re pretty open with giving us everything they know, they’re not just like ‘Oh just pay attention,’ because they know, they’ve been through this situation we’re in (now.) So it’s just, take it one day at a time.”
Holmes and Mason can offer Smith a lot of useful advice, but obviously the receiver Smith can learn the most from is Burress.
“We’re both similar, built the same. Just asking him pointers on everything like running routes. He said when he came in the NFL he was pretty much like me, big guy (but) didn’t really know the ins-and-outs on an NFL level.” Smith said. “So as he got older and played for sometime it came to him, so he just said it’s a learning process and he works with me if I’m running a route he’ll come back and be like ‘Courtney dip your shoulder or drop your hips.’
“And for someone to even want to talk to you, like a Plaxico Burress or even Jeremy Kerley, you know, he’s a rookie and he’ll be like, ‘Courtney just drop your shoulders.’ So, I mean I’m always willing to learn from those guys. And Mr. Mason, he just came in and immediately he came up and seen us running routes and was just like, ‘if you just do this a little more then you can beat him,’ so it’s all fun.”
With the three starters the Jets have at the receiver position, as well as the rookies Kerley and Scotty McKnight, it’s doubtful that Smith will make the active roster this season, but it would probably be wise for the Jets to stash him on the practice squad. Mason and Burress are only here for a short stint, so their presence doesn’t lessen Smith’s value at all, in fact it enhances it because as he said, being around them can only help him get better.
Considering he’s now on the Jets you can take it to the bank that special teams coach Mike Westhoff, will see what Smith can potentially add to the team on special teams this preseason. If he can be effective of kickoffs/punts, he will have an outside chance of making the active roster. However, if he can’t prove to have any value at all on special teams his chance of making even the practice squad will be reduced dramatically.
Smith knows this and says he is “willing to embrace any role they ask.” But for now he just has to do what he said, take it one day at a time and seek and learn as much information as possible and if one day his football knowledge catches up to his size and strength, then he will be the one pulling rookies aside and giving them pointers in training camp.
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