Giants Player Profile: Eric Smith, OT
Eric Smith was an undrafted free agent out of Virginia in 2017 by the Miami Dolphins, who earned a spot on the initial 53 man roster after having a solid preseason.
Sadly for Smith, he was hurt in practice and placed on the Injured Reserve list. His lack of availability and pedigree made him a candidate to be released in 2018; he ended up being one of the final cuts by the Dolphins after the preseason.
The 6’5", 315-pound, Smith was a very solid tackle for Virginia. He had 35 knockdowns in 2016 and played in 834 snaps at right tackle.
Smith helped Virginia reach a few milestones; he blocked for Taquan Mizzell Sr, the first player in ACC history with 1,500 career rushing and 1,500 career receiving yards. He also helped block for an offense that saw Kurt Benkert break UVA’s passing record for a game and become the quickest Virginia quarterback to throw for 2,000 yards in a season.
Smith was also the fourth true freshman to ever start as a tackle in school history. His solid college career led to an invitation from Phil Savage and the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
In college, Smith was durable, starting 12 three times and seeing action in nine games during his freshman year. He was strong at the point of attack and fluid. He allowed his pad level to get high from time to time, and his framing of blocks wasn’t great. He could also be better with his hands, but he could get away with technical flaws at the collegiate level.
Once released by the Dolphins, Smith ended up with the Patriots practice squad, and the Jets claimed him to their active roster. He was released at the end of the 2019 preseason and the Giants signed him to play a reserve role.
Smith was forced into action when Nate Solder suffered a concussion in Week 10 against the Jets. He played in 53 of the team's 69 offensive snaps, and he surrendered three sacks and five pressures.
It wasn’t the best showing, and Smith was clearly in over his head against his old team. Gregg Williams attacked the left side of the line, with young Will Hernandez and Spencer Pulley playing center, and
Smith seemed confused about certain blocking assignments in pass protection. Smith also saw some action in the Miami game, but it was minimal.
The tackle position was once a shortage of talent for the Giants, but it has been reenergized with the additions of Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart.
Thomas was the fourth overall selection out of Georgia, and Peart was a third-round pick out of UCONN. This is great for the Giants, but not for Smith’s standing on the roster, especially when that is compounded with the addition of veteran swing tackle Cameron Fleming.
If the Giants had to pick four tackles right now, it would easily be Thomas, Solder, Peart, and Fleming, with Nick Gates as a swing lineman who is being cross-trained.
This leaves Smith in a spot to battle for maybe the last tackle spot with Chad Slade, Nate Wozniak, and undrafted rookie Tyler Haycraft. With Gates possibly kicking inside to center, the fifth tackle spot could go to Smith, but the Giants are looking to be fluid and versatile at the offensive line.
Both Gates and the undrafted rookie out of Rhode Island, Kyle Murphy, have played multiple positions at a high level. Smith was a longtime right tackle in college and has played left tackle in the NFL, although it was less than ideal.
Smith will have to impress the Giants' new coaching staff and, in particular offensive line coach Marc Colombo.
Carrying a fifth tackle is no guarantee, especially with Gates' ability to play tackle, so Smith has an outside shot at making the roster. Still, a lot of things have to materialize for the young tackle.
With the new rules established in the offseason, teams can bring two players up, from an expanded practice squad, every week for game days, and then drop them back down without having them go through waivers.
Smith could end up on the practice squad and become a player that is relegated to that lifestyle. If injuries occur, Smith could slide in as a backup.