As the deadline for a finalized 53-man roster looms on the horizon, players across the league are fighting tooth and nail to land one of the final spots on their respective team's regular season rosters. DE Jacquies Smith is trying to do just that and seems to be heading in the right direction after a solid camp and some quality plays in the Bills' three preseason games.
Smith's journey through the NFL so far has been tough. It started in 2012 when he was inked to the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted free agent that May, but was cut by the team in August. Smith than spent a brief stint in the CFL before being picked up by the New York Jets as a member of their practice squad in December of 2012 but was out a job as of August 13, 2013. He spent time on Buffalo's practice squad last season and re-signed as a future free agent in January. Smith's journey through the league may be coming to an end if he can finish strong with what has been a solid training camp.
"It's a good feeling," said Smith. "I worked hard all offseason. Worked hard as far as going through practice squads and stuff. I got the opportunity to go out there and make a few plays here and there. I'm trying to seize the opportunity to help this team wherever I can."
This camp has already seen several new faces begin to make a name for themselves on a defensive line already jam packed with talent, but Smith seems to be making a niche for himself. With a pass rush that's drawing comparisons to DE Jerry Hughes and Coach Jim Schwartz endorsed work ethic, Smith is quickly becoming a respected player among teammates and opposing offensive lines alike.
"That's one of the guys I hang out a lot with," said Smith on the comparison to Hughes. "I'm with Jerry and he's helped me out with my game and if I see stuff out on the field because we kind of correlate and we kind of have similar games as far as playing and we help each other out. I do kind of see myself as a Jerry Hughes type of player."
It hasn't just been Hughes who's helped put Smith in position to land a roster spot. Fellow DE Mario Williams along with veteran interior DL Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams have also had a hand in helping Smith improve his game this preseason.
"[Hughes] has always helped me since day one when I got here last year as far as practice squad," said Smith. "He's helped me out a lot. We've got a great D-line so it's not just Jerry, you know Mario (Williams), Kyle (Williams), Marcell (Dareus). Those guys have been great players for a long but all the D-linemen help each other out a lot."
Although his name isn't familiar, his recent play may be. Most notably was his key role in the fumble and ensuing recovery that put DL Landon Cohen in the limelight of the Bills' preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"I think it was a good rush by everybody," said Smith. "A lot of times when you see guys getting sacks here and there, it's not just one guy. There's a lot of things that have to correlate as far as us getting back there and getting to the quarterback.
"We got the push from DE (Jarius) Wynn on the other side and I came around and beat a guy off the edge and Landry (Jones) didn't step up, he kind of stayed back there so I got a chance to hit him in the back which always kind of jars the ball lose and (DL Stefan) Charles came in and basically just finished him off. I tried to run down and help Landon score but he wanted to cut back I guess. His running back skills or something like that."
Although Smith considers it a "flash play" that coaches and execs love to see on film when considering the final 53-man roster, Coach Schwartz isn't letting Smith off that easy.
"He has to perform in practice, he has to prepare, he has to perform in preseason games," said Schwartz. "He's done a good job so far. He still has a lot of room for improvement. He's a young player, played some linebacker last year. His technique stuff he's still working on. But he's played with a high motor. He's played with good effort and when it's come in those games he's been around the quarterback and he's made some plays for us."
Smith isn't getting too far ahead of himself, though. He understands he still has work to do before he can consider himself a good bet for regular season roster.
"I think I got after the quarterback a lot," said Smith. "I'm in the backfield a lot. As far as being more stout against the run, I think that was one of my main focuses coming out of college and on the practice squad. Just trying to help out, sit on the edge and doing things like that a little better and also helping out special teams, flying down the field and making a few plays here and there. Just trying to get a niche, carve a role on this team to basically make it and to help the team out as much as I can."