Trey Smith film review; Flashes of dominance and the work that remains
Examining multiple games of the standout rookie guard's tape, how he made an impact immediately, and where he can improve in year two.
With Trey Smith, it’s a whole lot more fun to show than to tell.
The massive guard out of Tennessee, whom the Chiefs stole in the 6th round of the 2021 draft, surprised many (though not all) by grabbing the starting right guard spot out of the gate and never looking back. From the first time he stepped onto the field he left an impression. How? Well, like I said, it’s easier to show you than to tell you.
Smith, who plays the game as though opposing defenders personally insulted his dearest family members, became a one-man highlight reel along the offensive line starting in Week 1. His exceptional strength and genuinely cruel (I’m not sure there’s another word for it) desire to finish every block into the ground brought an edge the Chiefs’ offensive line hadn’t had in years.
Because of that play style, Smith quickly became a fan favorite, and deservedly so. His entire approach to playing offensive line can be summed up in one of my favorite “Madden cam” pictures of all time.
This is Smith absolutely burying a safety who dared fill a gap that Smith was assigned to clear out. When Smith started the block, the safety attempted to fight back by essentially throwing a punch that knocked off Smith’s helmet. No matter. Smith continued as though nothing happened and drove the defender into the ground with the same malice that he does everyone else. This is just flat-out fun to watch.
Of course, there’s a great deal more to playing offensive line than creating highlights. As we’ve talked about endlessly here, it’s what a player does snap in and snap out that matters the most. And while Smith’s highs were as high as anyone’s that doesn’t tell us who he was as a player for the other 50-60 snaps in game.
And that’s what we’re hear to discuss. How did Smith perform on a snap-by-snap basis, week in and week out? How did he develop over the course of his rookie season? Was the tape as good as the highlights? How did he measure up to the machine-like perfection of fellow rookie Creed Humphrey? This is one of my favorite times of the year; The "dead zone” of news where we can really delve into the previous season’s film.
And so to the film we go. I charted every snap Smith took in 7 games : Cleaveland, Baltimore, Green Bay, Denver (1st game), Las Vegas (2nd game), Buffalo (divisional round), and Cincinnati (AFC championship). I went throughout the year to see how Smith developed, and chose multiple back-to-back games to see how consistent he was. And what I found was a good player with a terrific ceiling, but one who needs refining in a few aspects moving forward.
Those who haven’t read an offensive lineman review here before (like Orlando Brown’s, or Humphrey’s linked above), here’s a quick primer on the methodology and the reasoning (the rest of you can skip ahead to the numbers):
I chart every pass blocking and run blocking down for wins, losses, and neutral snaps (“PBW” = pass block win, “PBL” = pass block loss, and the same with run blocking), as well as for pressures/hits/sacks allowed on the quarterback. A win is a snap in which the lineman executes an excellent 1x1 block or a great combo block (starting with a double team then getting into space alone). A loss is when a blocker gets beaten or misses a block. A neutral snap is when the blocker might give ground but fights the defender to a draw, or has little to do on the snap.
It’s worth noting that losses are far, far more important than wins for offensive linemen, as in general a dominant block doesn’t guarantee that a play succeeds but losing on a snap can doom a play to failure. So a player having a high win percentage matters a lot less than a low loss percentage, and “neutral” snaps are still a victory of sorts (especially against elite competition).
Let’s talk Trey Smith’s 2021 numbers, where he wins, and where he can improve to become a more consistent player. You may want to grab a snack first. I suggest pancakes.