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Eric Smith as Starter?

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The Jets need to replace Kerry Rhodes at free safety. One obvious candidate is Eric Smith. Smith started a few games during Rhodes' midseason benching and led the team in tackles in one of them. It seemed like Eric might be finished as a Jet when Jim Leonhard and Abram Elam got signed a year ago. Then the Mark Sanchez trade sent Elam to Cleveland, and Smith became the primary backup at safety. Rex was at first underwhelmed by the Michigan State product during offseason workouts. Later Smith played so well his head coach stunningly compared him to Ed Reed.

I'd say the team will probably keep the restricted free agent, but I'd be surprised to see him as a starter. He found his niche working in crowded space underneath, blitzing, and playing the run. He struggled when he had to play more athletic backs and tight ends in the open. He's not very quick or atheltic. He doesn't have the range to really play effectively in Cover 1 looks. If the Jets made him the starter, it would be a giant leap of faith Antonio Cromartie is going to bounce back to his 2007 form, and the corners will need limited safety help. While that's a possibility, I wouldn't bet the ranch on it.

The other option would be to have Smith play Jim Leonhard's role, more in the box, as a blitzter, etc. Leonhard could play Rhodes' centerfield role. The problem is the team would be downgrading in two positions. I see Smith as a useful cog in the right role in subpackages. I don't think I'd be comfortable with him starting, though.

How about you?