Entering his third season, Seattle Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith is hopeful to turn a part-time starting job in 2012 into a full-time role in 2013.
But Smith understands nothing is promised under head coach Pete Carroll.
“Going into your third year you know you have to be a professional all the time,” the Seattle outside linebacker said. “You have to be accountable. So it’s like a pivotal time for all of us. Especially on this team – we really have aspirations to win a lot of games. So we just want to make sure we play our part and do well.”
Smith started three games at weak-side, outside linebacker in place of an injured Leroy Hill last year. And Smith was productive, finishing with 17 tackles and two pass deflections.
With Hill not returning to Seattle in free agency, Smith is penciled in as the team’s starting outside linebacker. However, Smith’s chance at a starting job will be at a different position, as Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn experiments with moving last year’s starting strong-side, outside linebacker K.J. Wright to replace Hill on the weak-side, and sliding Smith over to strong-side, outside linebacker.
Adding to Smith’s confidence is the fact that Seattle surprisingly did not select a linebacker to replace Hill in this year’s draft
“You look at everything as an opportunity any time you get to play in the NFL,” Smith said. “But if there’s space for me to get more reps, then I’ll definitely do my best to take advantage of them.”
Smith’s fits Seattle’s shift to more of a hybrid, multiple-look up front defensively, where the strong-side, outside linebacker likely will be called upon to rush the passer more.
But he’ll have to compete with second-year pro Bruce Irvin and free agent addition Cliff Avril for time at that position.
“I think I run pretty well, so I’m going to try and use my strength, which is speed, and just aggressiveness as far as decision making and trying to find the ball,” Smith said. “I think that’s a good spot for me.”
Smith, who has one career sack in two seasons, also will have to brush-up on his pass-rush skills.
“We’ll definitely find out,” Smith said, when asked if he can rush the passer. “I’ve been working on it, so we’ll see.”
Size and health also are concerns. At 6-foot and 226 pounds, Smith is one of the smallest linebackers on Seattle’s roster. And he has had issues with staying healthy, playing in just 12 games as rookie.
“If you don’t play every game, they’re going to say something’s wrong with you,” Smith said. “So the thing is to try and be out there every game. And that’s my goal as far as health.”
Along with competing for a starting job, Smith is expected to continue to be a mainstay on special teams. Smith blocked a punt returned for a touchdown by Jeron Johnson against Dallas in Week 2 last year, and finished with five tackles on special teams.
“Absolutely,” Smith said about his role on special teams. “That’s going to be my first priority, because I know I’m going to be there and get those opportunities to start the game. So that’s definitely where I feel like I can make an impact right away.”