We have to be careful not to hype up Nolan Smith too much, because there is such a thing as setting unrealistic expectations, but the UGA rookie played a great game and injected some life into that turd burger of a preseason stinker on Thursday night.

Some clips:

He’s going up against Dawand Jones in that clip, a rookie fourth rounder out of Ohio State. Look at the bend! Just fantastic stuff. Those are the types of plays where he doesn’t register anything on the stat sheet, but flushes the QB from the pocket and lets a teammate wrap him up. It’s also a good example of why those 1v1 win rate stats that Pro Football Focus and other organizations do carry a higher level of importance.

 

Smith is getting held on this play. He does everything right. Eyes in the backfield, doesn’t get sucked in, pushes through and blows it up with a tackle for loss. Excelente.

It’s the bend that does it for me. He seems to have this ideal combination of strength and maneuverability, like he’s not going to bull rush tackles and drive them back, but he has enough slipperiness to keep himself from being pushed off trajectory in these wide, arcing kind of rushes. He’s able to engage tackles and kind of slide around/duck under the outside shoulder while still on a linear path to the quarterback. Haason Reddick does the same thing. If Smith even turns out to be half the player Reddick is during his rookie year, then the Birds are in great shape. And that’s not even counting Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham in the fold as well.

Smith did go out of the game with a shoulder injury, but told reporters he was fine. He’s very interested in getting that first NFL sack.

“I’m hungry,” he said. “I’m waiting. Hopefully next week is the week. You never know. Trying to get sacks in the NFL is like trying to hit home runs”

“I feel a lot more comfortable, just in the defense, how we do things, how it’s gonna be called, how it’s gonna come out. You have to understand your new defensive coordinator and I can almost spit it out (the play) before he even calls it out. I should be able to look at the sideline and be like “oh I know what’s coming” before the MIC (linebacker) even gives it up.”

Let’s fucking go, let’s get to the regular season.