Friday, February 29, 2008

Justin Smiley signed

Miami wasted no time finding its replacement for G Rex Hadnot. Justin Smiley has been signed to be the team's new starting right guard. He agreed to a five-year deal worth $25 million, including a $9 million signing bonus. Smiley (6'3", 311 lbs.) was a second-round draft choice of the 49ers in 2004. He is 26 years old. He was placed on injured reserve in early November of last season after tearing the labrum in his shoulder and severely dislocating the shoulder. Here are Smiley's career stats:

Year Team G GS Pen Yds False Start Holding Sacks Allwd Yds
2004 SF 16 9 0 0 0 0 6.75 46.50
2005 SF 16 16 1 2 0 0 4.50 30.00
2006 SF 16 16 3 25 1 2 0.00 0.00
2007 SF 8 8 3 25 1 2 3.00 17.50
Totals 56 49 7 52 2 4 14.25 94.00

Judging by those numbers, Smiley had a fantastic 2006 season - zero sacks allowed in 16 starts! He doesn't commit many penalties, either. However, if 2006 is excluded, he seems to give up large amounts of sacks. In only 9 starts during his rookie season, he gave up 6.75 sacks. Last season, in only 8 starts, he allowed 3 sacks.

Using the Football Outsiders database for offensive lines, I tried to get a better sense for Smiley's run-blocking abilities. By no means are these numbers wholly representative of his role in the running game (particularly in the years where he didn't start all the games), but they do give some idea for what he offers in the run game.

ALY are Adjusted Line Yards. The Run % stat shows how often the team ran in a particular direction. In this case that would be up the middle behind the center and guards. The number following in parentheses represents the league average for running up the middle that year. More on these stats can be found here.

Run %
54% (50)
57% (49)
59% (50)

Looking at those numbers, Smiley seems to have consistently improved his run-blocking to a point where the 49ers were quite successful when running in his direction. For whatever reason, the 49ers consistently ran up the middle a larger percentage of the time than the league average. I can't say for certain whether that is because of Smiley's run-blocking skills or not, but it is one potential reason among many possibilities.

Here is the Scouts, Inc. report on Smiley courtesy of ESPN Insider:
"Smiley is well-built, athletic and instinctive. He has good upside. He moves very well over short areas. He has good initial quickness. He pulls and traps effectively. He is quick into the hole and adjusts very well on the move. He is aware, alert and takes solid angles. He shows a solid feel for pass protection. He senses twists and stunts, and he can pass off and recover. He is a technically sound player who rarely gets out of position. He plays with good leverage, quick hands and very good hand placement. But Smiley lacks functional power. He gets overmatched in too many one-on-one matchups against bulky or strong defenders. He sometimes loses his power angles on down blocks. He doesn't play with great balance and winds up on the ground too often."
When all is said and done, I think Miami got a young guard with significant upside remaining. He seems to be a better run blocker than pass protector and will need to work on limiting his sacks. Also, I realize that this is free agency and the contracts are bound to get bigger and bigger every year, but I'm not totally thrilled about handing that large of a contract, with that much guaranteed money, to a guy who very recently tore the labrum in his shoulder. I understand that it's a calculated risk, but in this instance I think I would rather have had Rex Hadnot back. Still, that's not going to happen, and judging by the other options available, Miami made a pretty sound decision here by bringing in a young guy who can be a key part of the line for years to come.

No comments: