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Eric Smith Must Tighten Up Punt Protection

Andrew Burton

Rex Ryan is saying Tim Tebow will be off punt protection duties this week. That means the job will probably fall to Eric Smith as it has since the New England game on Thanksgiving. What has been a turbulent year for Jets special teams almost got worse in Jacksonville. The Jaguars came close to blocking three punts in the second half on Sunday, any of which might have swung the game. Twice they got a free runner at Robert Malone.

One of these was the result of Lex Hilliard blowing a block. The other two were failed assignments by Smith, though. The first came when Tanner Purdum got completely wiped out at a snap, allowing a Jaguar to come through the middle of the line. Smith did not pick him up. On the second Smith play, he lost leverage and got driven back, almost into Malone.

Smith should have been the personal protector from the outset of the season, but he needs to play better this week. The personal protector cannot afford to miss or lose any assignments. Usually when he does, the punt gets blocked. The Jets got lucky last week. The luck will run out if this keeps happening. In what figures to be a close, low scoring game a blocked punt could be difference between winning and losing.