Why Tight End Kaden Smith Has Been A Hidden Gem for the Giants
When the Giants acquired tight end Kaden Smith off waivers back on September 19, the move made no sense.
The Giants, remember, waived running back Paul Perkins and picked up Smith, who at the time was the fifth tight end of the 53-man roster.
But fate has a funny way of working out as these days, the 6-foot 5-inch, 248 pound Smith is among the last men standing at tight end for the Giants.
Originally a sixth-round draft pick by the 49ers, Smith was waived when the 49ers needed the roster spot for another position.
The Giants, who liked Smith when he was coming out of Stanford, didn't waste any time in putting in a waiver claim, which ended up being successful.
Although Smith was inactive for his first two games as a Giants and didn't get much if any snaps over his next four games, by biding his time, the rookie would soon get his opportunities to shine.
And shine he has. Smith has appeared in eight games with five starts and has caught 23 balls for 170 yards with three touchdowns, two of which came in last week's win against Washington.
And speaking of last week, Smith barely left the field, showing himself not only as a reliable set of hands in the receiving game but also as a blocker, where he's allowed just one pressure in 158 snaps played.
"He’s done a nice job doing the things that we’ve asked him to do," said Giants tight ends coach Lunda Wells.
"He’s consistently gotten better with a lot of the techniques that we’re asking him to do, so I think that’s a contribution to him in terms of his work ethic and what he brings to the game. So, he’s done a nice job with everything we’ve asked of him.
As a blocker, Smith gets quick position against his man every time, and he has more than enough battle and strength and athleticism to sustain his block long enough to make a difference.
He's even athletic enough to be used on pulls, which he did last week, delivering two textbook pancake finishes that cleared a defender out of the way.
Wells said that Smith's growth as a blocker hasn't been a surprise.
"When you work at something every day and you’re emphasizing it, you just stay very intentional with your work with them," he said.
"We always talk about taking the drill work to the teamwork at practice and then taking that to game day. It hasn’t really surprised me."
Smith isn't necessarily the fastest tight end out there, which is believed to be a reason why his draft stock slipped so much. However, he’s very precise and doesn't waste steps.
As a receiver, he's caught 23 of 30 pass targets this year, playing a non-flashy game that offers a lot of promise and intrigue for a regular role in next year's offense.
"He understands how to get open," Wells said of Smith's receiving abilities.
"One of the biggest things that people don’t give him credit for is he can stick his foot in the ground and separate. So, being instinctive and being able to stick his foot in the ground and separate has been probably the biggest contribution in terms of his success in the pass game."
Listen! Tight end Kaden Smith appeared on the LockedOn Giants podcast earlier this month to talk about his NFL journey and his progress with the Giants.