A day after addressing right tackle, the Redskins went after another position where they desperately need help: outside linebacker.
With the team’s second round selection, new general manager Scot McCloughan picked Mississippi State’s Preston Smith, a 6-foot-5, 271-pound defensive end who is expected to convert to linebacker in the Redskins’ 3-4 scheme.
Smith joins a Redskins’ corps of outside linebackers that includes starters Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy, as well as reserves Jackson Jeffcoat and Trevardo Williams. Three-time Pro Bowler Brian Orakpo departed via free agency.
Smith first got a sense that he might end up in Washington after a productive meeting with the Redskins’ coaching staff at the Scouting Combine in February.
“They liked me a lot,” he said on a conference call with local reporters Friday night. “We watched film, reviewed it and talked about a lot of things. I believe that I was on the radar then.”
Smith joked that he was so excited when his phone rang that he blanked out.
“I can’t even remember,” he said when asked which member of the Redskins’ front office called him. “My mind went blank as soon as they said, ‘This is the Redskins.’ I just got excited. Everything before and kinda after that, I kinda forgot just that quick.”
As a senior at Mississippi State, Smith recorded 48 tackles, including 15 for a loss, to go along with nine sacks and two interceptions.
Solid stats, indeed, but Smith suspects that it was his performance in Indianapolis that propelled him toward the top of the second round. At the combine, the Stone Mountain, Ga. native clocked a 4.74-second 40-yard dash, a 121-inch broad jump and 7.07-second three-cone drill -- all of which ranked among the best numbers posted by defensive ends.
“I think it helped me a lot because a lot of [scouts] didn’t believe that I could move the way I move at my size from the film,” Smith said. “From a lot of the film they reviewed, they felt like I looked slower than what I seemed. I feel like the combine was a great chance to go out and show them that I’m faster than what they say, and I move better than they think I move.”
Smith, who counts his versatility is among his strengths, said he isn’t concerned about transitioning to outside linebacker.
“I feel like it will go well because we used a lot of different looks for my defense in college, playing standup at outside linebacker, doing a lot of drops and doing a lot of different looks,” he said. “I feel like it will be a great transition, something I’m used to, something I’m familiar with. It will be nothing new to me. Won’t be hard for me to adjust.”
Smith may have to lose a few pounds as he makes the switch. He said he’s already down about five pounds from his playing weight ... though that wasn’t necessarily intended.
“This process has caused me to be a little nervous and stressed out,” he cracked. “You might not eat. Now that it’s over -- I’m not going to pig out -- but I’m going to start to eat.”
MORE REDSKINS: Smith a good combination of size and agility