Local NFL fan-favorite Justin Smiley was traded from the Miami Dolphins to the Jacksonville Jaguars this past week, bringing the Southeast Georgia native a little closer to where he was born and raised.
Most high school football fans in the area remember Smiley as a 3-AA football standout who dominated opponents on both sides of the ball as a member of Southeast Bulloch High School Yellow Jackets.
Smiley went on to play for the University of Alabama where he was selected as a member of the All South-Eastern Conference Offensive Team. After college he was selected in the second round of the 2004 draft by the San Francisco 49er’s as the 46th overall pick. He played for the Niner’s from 2004-2007, before being traded to the Dolphins where he played through the 2009 season.
This past week, Jacksonville gave the Dolphins a 7th round pick in the 2011 NFL draft for Smiley, and the move was made with the intent of the lineman shoring up the Jaguars’ interior line. Last year, the Jaguars’ offensive line clearly had problems. Quarterback David Garrand was sacked 42 times. But in fairness to the offensive unit, Garrand’s immobility and holding the ball too long also contributed to this sack total.
In the 2010 draft, instead of drafting for offensive needs, the Jaguars focused on the other side of the ball. The Florida team had only six draft picks. They used their top four selections for defensive linemen. In the sixth round they did have two picks, but instead of using them on the offensive line they selected a running back and a kick return specialist. With this draft strategy, and now with this trade for Smiley, it is clear that the Jags still believe the 28 year old still has a lot of football left in him.
Smiley has started 73 of his 83 games in the NFL, but over the last two years, his durability has come into question. In 2008 he missed eight games with a broken ankle. Last year he didn’t start in four games, and missed one completely due to a shoulder injury. Despite these setbacks, he passed the Jaguars team physical on Tuesday, and reports out of Florida say he is ready to go.
With Smiley now playing for the Jaguars, fans in the area will have a better opportunity to see the former AA high school standout.
Smiley will get an opportunity to take on his former team in a couple of months, when the Jags face the Dolphins on Aug. 21 in Jacksonville in a pre-season game.
Locals who want to see Smiley in a game that means something will have to wait for Jacksonville’s first regular season game on Sept. 12 when the Denver Broncos come to town.