Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Reasoning for Bills' focus on Smith at QB unclear


Two years ago, then-Jets utility player Brad Smith was arguably the NFL's best kick returner, taking two returns to the end zone and averaging an NFL-best (for players with more than 21 returns) 28.6 yards a return.

Three years before that, Smith made 32 receptions as a receiver and caught two touchdown passes. And as a first-year Bill, Smith made 23 receptions last season, including a 36-yard touchdown catch.

Oh, and he's also rushed for a touchdown in each of the last three seasons.

So it's only fitting that the Bills are putting Smith's focus on being a quarterback. Except not really.

So far through the Bills' OTAs and beginning of minicamp, Smith has been working exclusively as a quarterback. Despite the fact that Buffalo is paying Ryan Fitzpatrick franchise money and signed veteran quarterback (and proven winner) Vince Young as Fitzpatrick's backup, Buffalo has felt inclined to bother trying to make Smith a quarterback first, even if he's better at everything else.

Smith was a converted receiver entering the NFL, having played quarterback for his entire college career at Missouri. He mainly excelled at running the football and was sub-par mechanically and accuracy-wise, which is why he projected as a wideout, running back and option quarterback.

I remember watching Smith take a few snaps at Jets training camp in 2010. He hit more receivers in the feet than in the hands. And that was OK, because he wasn't about to spend any significant amount of playing time calling signals, anyway.

I also thought Smith was a huge loss for the Jets last season, as he's dangerous literally anywhere on the field. Gang Green was able to manage a top-of-the-line return game last season thanks to the stellar work of all-world special teams coach Mike Westhoff, but I still thought they could've done some special things with Smith.

The Jets had a lot to worry about when Smith went to division rival Buffalo last season. But they're probably less threatened now, seeing that he's getting extensive practice at a position that he won't actually ever play at during meaningful minutes, unless he's running the ball.

Stevie Johnson is very good, and the Bills have some youthful up-and-comers at wideout, but Buffalo isn't exactly bursting at the seams with proven talent at receiver, which is why they need to take advantage of everything they can get at the position. So why not try to further develop Smith at wideout?

Follow Nick @NickStDenis
Follow AFC East Daily @AFCEastDaily