No player on the St. Louis Rams 2011 roster has a bigger base salary than right tackle Jason Smith at $8.5 million this year. Smith does not represent the largest cap hit for the team this year, but he is among the top three in terms of cap cost. He is also on the bench, not with an injury but for his continuing poor play. Jason Smith is the perfect representation of the 2011 St. Louis Rams.
Injuries cut short Smith's rookie season in 2009. Still, the second overall pick did display some flashes of the talent that made him the Rams' choice as the second overall pick in that year's draft. Last season, Smith continued his inconsistent play, and here we are in 2011, his third season, still witnessing the maddening ups and downs from Smith...it's been mostly downs this season too.
The easiest thing to do is to slap the bust label on Smith, but that only tells a small part of the story. Last night I wrote about the Rams struggling to find an identity. Their lack of fight from week to week and play to play, in spite of considerable talent, reflects very poorly on the coaching staff. Jason Smith is the perfect example of this Rams team.
Like the Rams, Smith has talent. Like the Rams, that talent goes missing on most plays. Smith lacks the nastiness required of offensive linemen in the NFL. The coaches have never been able to extract his talent or motivate him to play with the kind of passion you expect to see in bookend tackles. Adding Harvey Dahl at right guard this season was supposed to fix that. Instead, Smith decides to flash his temper with an poorly timed swipe at none other than Ray Lewis. There could not be a better contrast of the passion two players bring to the game.
Big time draft picks go bust for a number of reasons. Smith lacks the talent to be among the elite offensive tackles in the league, but he has more than enough ability to be a reliable contributor. The Rams coaching staff has failed to return the investment on Smith. Like the overall team, which is far more talented than we've seen so far, Smith just can't put it together.
Maybe, hopefully, it's not too late. Benching a player sometimes motivates them to do better. At this point, Adam Goldberg is a better pass blocker than Smith, and that matters most as the Rams try and prevent their $50 million investment from being pummeled on a weekly basis.