Texans DRE Antonio Smith doesn't get a lot of fanfare playing on a star-studded defense that includes former No. 1 pick, OLB Mario Williams, and 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year, ILB Brian Cushing. He is incredibly valuable to the Texans, however, bringing great effort and energy to work every day; the coaching staff said he was the team's most consistent lineman a season ago when consistency was so hard to come by.
"What he brings to the table can't be measured in stats," said a daily team observer. His stats certainly have stood out early this season, though. After tallying 3.3 sacks per season coming into 2011, Smith has recorded a sack in each of the Texans' first three games.
Although he lines up regularly as a five-technique in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' base 3-4, Smith is making life hard on opposing QBs by sliding inside to a three-technique on passing downs.
Regarded more as a run stuffer, Smith discussed his early pass-rush production from the inside with PFW by phone this week.
"As far as being in the three technique lining up," the 6-4, 280-pound Smith said, "it ain't like nobody is reinventing the wheel or anything like that; playing the three technique — you just got to be a dog out there."
Added defensive-line coach Bill Kollar: "He's a good worker. He stays healthy and we obviously hope that ends up happening. He's a little better, really, playing inside than he was outside, especially on an open-side end. He likes the action inside more, and it's helped him and we've gotten some pretty good pressure from him so far inside."
Playing in a 3-4 is nothing new for Smith, who spent the first five years of his eight-year career in a similar system in Arizona. But he lauds Phillips' ability to identify what works, and knowing how to make subtle changes without putting too much on his players' plates too soon.
"Wade has been doing this so long I think he took the best possible approach this offseason," he said. "I really like this system. I like the people I'm playing with, and we're just having fun and enjoying the game."