Elerson Smith flew around the right intervention. He was overshadowed by impotent sprinter Sandro Platzmeyer, who had no chance of practicing without platforms. Wearing a red jersey and offline, quarterback Davis Webb set out for the run during Wednesday’s first practice session for the New York Giants training camp.
“he is [Webb] Smith joked after training on Wednesday. “He has wheels.”
In a real game, with a quarterback who could hit him, that might have been a sack for Smith.
Thursday, Smith’s left tackle made Devere Hamilton’s life miserable. He easily got past Hamilton in a few plays, taking his quarterbacks out of pocket. To be fair, Hamilton couldn’t stop the non-designed free agent Tomon Fox on Thursday either.
This, though, is about Smith. Not Hamilton.
The point is, the 2021 fourth-round pick for the 24-year-old is off to a good start in this bootcamp. This is important because he didn’t get a chance during the junior season.
Smith suffered a hamstring injury during junior training in the week before last year’s training camp officially opened. He didn’t do any significant exercise during bootcamp, just gently participated in a few rounds. He started the season at Injured Reserve, played in eight games after revitalizing, and then finished the year again on IR with a neck injury.
“That’s all I’m here to do, so I’m really excited about it,” Smith told Big Blue View on Wednesday during an exclusive interview. “Last year I didn’t even get a day of training camp. I think this is going to be a big time for me, just for the fact that I have a lot of days where I can get better.
“We were talking about that today, take it a step further. Just do it every day. I think bootcamp is the perfect time to work on and acclimatize your craft and I’m excited about that.”
Smith ended up playing 107 defensive shots last season, accumulating just eight tackles (two singles), a forced tumble and a pair of quarterback hits.
I asked Smith how difficult it was to come back after losing so much time, especially when I was a beginner.
“It’s hard to come back in the middle of the season because you don’t get the live reps you need in practice,” Smith said. “But, you know, it’s the NFL for a reason and I’m here for a reason, so we try to work with what we have and that’s what we had to do last year. Now we have a lot of opportunities to improve.”
Smith is incredibly soft-spoken, answering questions politely in a voice barely above a whisper. At 6 feet 7, 255 pounds, that probably makes him a rather cute giant.
Smith admitted that he had to work through the year not to think about what it would have been like if he had stayed healthy through training camp.
“It’s hard. Sometimes we can drop that line of thinking, but you want to stay present and only work with the opportunity in front of you,” Smith said. From every delegate and that’s what we’ll do next season as well.”
The Giants suddenly find themselves with a young, talented group of potentially stellar contestants. There is No. 5 overall Kayvonne Tebodo, 2021 second-round pick Aziz Ogulari, veteran Jihad Ward, Quincy Roche, and 2019 third-round pick Auchan Ximines.
Where does Smith fit in?
“I just try to take it day in and day out, represented by a rep,” he said. “There are many different things, different distractions that can cancel your game and I don’t want to worry about that.”
If Smith continues to harass quarterbacks throughout training camp and pre-season, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale will find a way to employ this long, athletic and versatile passing as part of his “pipe squeeze” philosophy.
“I’m excited to play in that defense,” Smith said. “Obviously Wink is more aggressive. He wants to chase the quarterback, and that’s what I love to do. That’s what I’ve been training to do this season.”
Martindale as coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens has successfully developed several midfielders who were not drafted in the first round into good players. Zadarius Smith was a 2015 fourth-round pick, Matt Godon was a 2016 fifth-round pick of the Grand Valley State and Teos Bowser was a 2017 second-round pick.
“This offseason we have reflected on our former outside quarterbacks who have been in this scheme before and they have had a lot of success,” Smith said. “This is another reason why we can trust the process with Wink, especially as external supporters because we know there is a lot of success out there.
“From Judon to Za’Darius Smith to Tyus Bowser, who in recent years have all been doing well for themselves.”
Could Smith be next in line? It’s too early to jump to conclusions – working two days without pads doesn’t mean much in the big picture. However, Smith’s play in the past couple of days hinted at why the former regime of the Giants had recruited him as a development player.
Only time will tell if Smith is able to turn his impressive start into something more significant, both for him and the Giants.