Focus on: Malcolm Smith

Posted Dec 9, 2013

With K.J. Wright scheduled to have surgery on his right foot Tuesday, the versatile Malcolm Smith steps back into the Seahawks’ starting lineup at weak-side linebacker.

Malcolm Smith has been here before.

With the news that K.J. Wright will be out four to six weeks after having surgery Tuesday to repair the right foot he broke during Sunday’s loss to the 49ers in San Francisco, Smith returns to the starting lineup for the third time this season as the Seahawks prepare for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants in the Meadowlands.

The versatile Smith began the season as the starter on the strong side because Bruce Irvin was serving a league-imposed four-game suspension. When middle linebacker Bobby Wagner missed two games at midseason because of a sprained ankle, Wright moved into the middle and Smith started on the weak side. After Wright went out Sunday, it was Smith who took over.

“I just try to soak up as much as I can about our defense to be able to be used at different spots, have a good skill set and just be ready to play,” Smith said Monday after meeting with position coach Ken Norton and the other linebackers.

How big is the transition from strong side to weak side? “It’s different,” Smith said. “You’ve just got to be aware of what’s going on as far as the defense goes, and I’ll be able to put myself in position. And having a week to prepare is always helpful.”

The league’s No. 1-ranked defense will miss Wright. He has 80 tackles to rank third on the unit behind Wagner (89) and All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas (85). And Wright drew praise for the job he did in pass coverage against Jimmy Graham, the Saints’ 6-foot-7, 265-pound tight end, in the Seahawks’ 34-7 victory over New Orleans last Monday night.

But Smith’s experience, versatility and productivity lessen the significance of the loss. Smith also played for Carroll at USC.

“Malcolm understands the position really well,” coach Pete Carroll said during his weekly day-after Q&A session with the media. “He’s a fantastic athlete. Really good coverage guys, speed guy, run the field. He’s played quite a bit for us this year. We feel comfortable with him playing and he should do a good job for us.”

Against the 49ers, Smith had four tackles, including one for a 7-yard loss on quarterback Colin Kaepernick on a third-and-2 play. He had eight tackles, including a sack, in the Week 7 win over the Cardinals in Arizona. And he’s eighth on the team with 32 tackles, despite his spot duty as a starter.

The key to being able to step in and play like a starter is to prepare like you are the starter.

“You’d rather be prepared than scared,” Smith said. “So, again, this week is a great opportunity for me to show what I can do.”