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Proficiency in pass coverage sets former Georgia Bulldogs star Roquan Smith apart from the rest of the linebackers entering the 2018 NFL Draft.

NFL draft: Coverage skills set Roquan Smith apart from other linebackers

Cy Brown

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Roquan Smith is a perfect fit for the modern NFL

Roquan Smith figures to be one of first linebackers — if not the first — taken when the 2018 NFL Draft rolls around on April 26. So what sets the Butkus Award winner apart from the rest of the linebackers entering the draft? Yes, he can move sideline-to-sideline, attack the runner and lay wood like almost no other. But it’s his pass-coverage skills that will set him apart from the rest of the field as they enter an increasingly pass-happy league.

Just ask Kirby Smart. While discussing the use of tailbacks in the passing game with reporters recently, Smart noted that Georgia’s defense isn’t covering them as well in practice as when Smith patrolled the middle.

“Uh oh. That guy didn’t cover that guy like 3 used to,” Smart recalled thinking to himself, according to Seth Emerson of DawgNation.

But Georgia’s loss will be some NFL team’s gain. In an excellent post from Pro Football Focus, Sam Monson went in-depth on why Smith is the perfect linebacker for the modern NFL. I encourage you to read the entire post. Monson breaks down what makes Smith special better than any writer I’ve read on the subject. But for our purposes, I’m going to focus on what he had to say about Smith’s coverage ability.

According to PFF, Smith graded out at 90.6 in coverage. That’s first among all linebackers in this draft class. Monson pointed to a play from the regular season loss to Auburn — one of the few positive plays for the Bulldogs in that game — as an example of what Smith can do in coverage. From Monson:

On third-and-16, he was able to read the route combination quickly, spot the crosser and stay with it to the back corner of the end zone and deflect the pass away. This is elite level coverage.

Here’s the play in question.

That tweet is the start of a thread with many more examples that show why Smith could be a star today in the NFL, so check that out. And, like I said before, make sure you read Monson’s entire post. It’s well worth your time.

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Chip Towers’ interesting takes

There was no practice Wednesday, but Chip Towers of DawgNation wrote a couple of great posts about the team that I encourage y’all to check out.

First, he took a long look at Andrew Thomas’ transition from right to left tackle, as well as his transition from  freshman to top dog on the line. Here’s a taste of that story that shows that Thomas’ teammates believe he can be a special player.

“Andrew’s a great player, a great offensive lineman,” said junior tight end Charlie Woerner, according to Towers. “I think he’ll be a first-round pick someday.”

Towers also dove into what to expect from the 2018 UGA Coaches Clinic, which begins Thursday and will feature Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn, Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay and Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Towers reports 700 high school coaches are signed up to attend, but Smart is hoping to draw 1,000. With a large number of those coaches presumably coming from right here in Georgia, it’ll give Smart a chance to do a bit of an indirect recruiting by interacting with the folks who serve as gatekeepers to the state’s top prospects.

“The state of Georgia has the best high school coaches in the country because our state education is such that they get good benefits, they get good pay,” Smart said, according to Towers. “So if they’re developing tough, hard-nosed, disciplined football players, guess who I get to inherit? Those guys. So it’s somewhat of a minor league for us, so I really believe you should give back to them.”

Recruiting roundup

So all you recruitniks can get your fix, here’s what Jeff Sentell of DawgNation wrote Wednesday.

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Good dog

Hank Aaron never hit a homer he didn’t swing at.

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