Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bills should get all-purpose Smith involved

In addition to using running back C.J. Spiller as a receiver to help remedy their thinning wideout corps, the Buffalo Bills will probably focus on working in former New York Jets lethal weapon Brad Smith at receiver more often, as well.

Smith, who is listed as a quarterback on the team’s roster but can play virtually any skill position on offense, is a threat whenever on the field, regardless of where he lines up. With the (little bit of) extra time to work him more into the offense throughout the bye week, the Bills should be taking time to do just that.

So far this season, the Bills have ran the ball with Smith 15 times, good for a touchdown and six first downs. He’s also caught two passes, one good for a first down, and returned five kickoffs.

Bills coach Chan Gailey admits they’d like to get Smith more involved, and it’s on the “list of things to do” throughout their game-less Week 7, but it’s not at the top of their list. It should be pretty close, though.

A six-year pro out of Missouri, Smith has always been under-used, but that could also be a reason for his success. Some games, we won’t even see him take the field; other games, he’s the difference maker. The key with keeping Smith as productive as he has been is knowing when and where to use him, without playing him so much that he loses his edge over those unfamiliar with him.

The Jets only got seven touchdowns out of Smith over his five years there, but he was continually the X-factor in multiple ways. It’s not so much quantity as it is quality when it comes to Smith.

As a punt and kick returner, he uses dashing speed and scary acceleration to try and make something happen. He’s had success doing so, yet still, the Jets didn’t always use him as a returner, and the Bills haven’t yet either. Smith did have the most returns (and yardage) of his career last year with New York, though. His 50 kickoff returns were good for well over 1,000 yards and a pair of touchdowns. And, as an indication of what he’s capable of, Smith’s only return touchdown for the Jets in 2009 was a 106-yard kickoff return vs. the Indianapolis Colts.

As a backfield threat — lining up under center at quarterback, as a true running back or in the slot — Smith certainly has plenty to offer, too. With the Jets, that’s where he illustrated the most value. If Gang Green was struggling to move the ball, it’d switch up the offense and bring in Smith for a Wildcat look. Even when it was virtually known by the defense that Smith would be tucking the ball away and running with it, he still found production. And, if the run looked like it wasn’t going to work, well … Smith could just throw the ball. I mean, he is (technically) a QB.

Where the Bills need Smith to be most effective, though, is split out at receiver. Buffalo needs help at that position and Smith has the potential to make a large impact. He already has become a marquee player in the NFL despite his sporadic appearances. And playing quarterback most of his life, he knows routes, knows what an ideal pass is and knows what to look for when evaluating defenses at the line of scrimmage.

Follow Sam @SammySports