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Joe McKnight: The New Brad Smith?

I have spent a lot of time over the past week talking about Jeremy Kerley potentially taking over a lot of Brad Smith's duties. There is another obvious candidate to do some of Brad's work, though. It is Joe McKnight. Most people remember McKnight as a guy who came to camp out of shape as a rookie, had a fumbling problem, and did not seem ready to be an NFL player.

Joe responded to it by working hard, earning his way onto the active roster with special teams work. Then he ran for 158 yards on 32 carries when he got his chance in the regular season finale against the Bills. You could argue it was a meaningless game against a bunch of backups. You would probably be right. The thing is you could say the same about preseason games, and Joe struggled there.

McKnight showed improved vision and a willingness to take hits and grind out extra yardage in that Bills game. These traits were improved from what he did in college, where he was largely a finesse guy. The most impressive part of McKnight's game, though, is his agility. He has the ability to makes moves and cut really quickly to make guys miss. Even in a lot of the touches he got in space in 2010 where he did not gain much yardage due to a lack of blocking, his ability to get by the initial defender impressed me.

I wonder whether he might be the guy to replace Smith. With his improved vision and natural athletic ability, he could become dangerous as a kick returner and getting it on screens, reverses, and other plays designed to get it in space.