Smith gets role in new defense
By By Richard Dark / special to The Star
May 9, 2003
NEW ORLEANS Former Meridian High School standout Kenny Smith is taking his promotion to starting right defensive tackle for the New Orleans Saints as a challenge, not a gift.
Smith came into camp in impressive physical condition and wowed the coaching staff. When the Saints traded former Ole Miss standout Norman Hand to Seattle last week for a sixth-round draft pick, it opened the door for Smith to step in and take the reins.
Based on the most current depth chart, if all things remained the same through the summer, the Saints new starting defensive line will consist of Smith, first-round draft pick Johnathan Sullivan and ends Charles Grant and Darren Howard. The backups will be Grady Jackson, Willie Whitehead and Martin Chase.
Smith's patience was taxed last season, however, as New Orleans head coach Jim Haslett benched him after a brief stint at starter, returning the job to the incumbent Hand. A factor in that decision may have been Hand's big salary, no longer a part of the equation with the aforementioned trade. Smith and his 3.5 sacks rode the bench during the disastrous slide that saw New Orleans lose three of its final four games and miss the postseason.
This year, the team is taking a totally different view, opting for speed and athleticism over experience.
Haslett said he was not ready to give up on Jackson, who showed up for mini-camp hovering around the 366-pound mark.