Rex Ryan was effusive in his praise yesterday for safety Eric Smith, who was given a game ball for his all-around game on both defense and special teams during the Jets' 24-17 victory over the Titans on Sunday.
Ryan, in fact, conceded he was so down on Smith's chances to be a part of the team that he considered trading him during the offseason.
"In the first minicamp, I had my doubts and concerns about Eric," Ryan said. "We had just thrown him in as a, 'Well, let's see what [he] does' type. I had no idea what kind of player he was. I was down on him after that first minicamp. I would have been more than happy to have traded him, to be honest.
"Now, I'm like, 'Whoa, this guy is so valuable to our team.' I had no idea. Him and (Jason) Trusnik are playing about as well on special teams as anybody in this league."
He wasn't alone back then. Smith never impressed me much his first three years. He didn't look athletic enough and didn't seem to have good cover skills. I think it's all coaching. Coaches are important for developing schemes, but they can also turn around a player's career through their teaching. The best example I can think of is the way Tom Coughlin got Tiki Barber to protect the ball. Smith looks like a different player under Rex.