Jets Teammate Touts Bubble Candidate as ‘One of the Hardest Workers’

Tanzel Smart

Getty New York Jets defensive lineman Tanzel Smart (#92) tackles a New York Giants running back with the Los Angeles Rams on November 5, 2017, at MetLife Stadium.

Just after minicamp on June 28, 2021, New York Jets defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers caught up with Harrison Glaser of Take Flight Media.

The exclusive interview was live-streamed on Glaser’s official Take Flight Spittin’ Fire Podcast as “JFM” detailed what motivates him, how he first got into football, his future with the Jets and so much more.

Part of that “so much more” was Franklin-Myers’ thoughts on his teammates on the defensive line, and one comment really stood out to me.

“Tanzel Smart, I mean he’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen in my life,” JFM told Glaser, “he makes me work harder than I’ve ever worked since I’ve been here.”

You hear a lot about Quinnen Williams, Carl Lawson, Vinny Curry, Sheldon Rankins and even the underrated Folorunso Fatukasi, but people rarely focus on Smart. Of course, Franklin-Myers and the depth defensive tackle share a history together.

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Smart & JFM Share Similar Past

The former 2017 sixth-round pick out of Tulane started his NFL career as a rotational piece with the Los Angeles Rams. One year later, fourth-rounder JFM became his teammate during the recent Super Bowl LIII appearance for the City of Angels.

The two competed for playing time with the Rams but seem to have great respect for one another. Ironically, the pair are set to do the same throughout Gang Green’s 2021 training camp.

General manager Joe Douglas reunited the D-linemen when he claimed Smart after brief stints with the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns in 2020. The journeyman is known for his versatility and hustle as a high motor player.

He offers quality depth in a 4-3, being that he’s logged snaps at three-technique DT, nose tackle and defensive end throughout his career. In 2020, Smart suited up for three games with the Jets, totaling three tackles on 26 defensive snaps.

Over that brief period, he received positive grades from Pro Football Focus against opposing rushers with a 71.8 grade in the run game.

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Is There Room for Smart on This Roster?

The NFL is a hard knock life, hence the name of the HBO documentary drama. Smart’s already learned that multiple times throughout his career and 2021 could end up no different.

Although the defensive lineman had a very positive OTA period in green and white, he still faces an uphill battle due to circumstances. This positional group is probably the Jets’ deepest area on the entire roster with competition sprouting up all around Smart.

That goes along with Douglas’ nature as a GM, he loves to build the trenches.

Here’s a look at the current depth chart options on the D-line (roles subject to change):

“LEO” DE 3-Technique DT Nose Tackle 5-Technique DE
Lawson Williams Fatukasi Franklin-Myers
Bryce Huff Rankins Nathan Shepherd Curry
Ronald Blair Smart Jonathan Marshall Jabari Zuniga
Hamilcar Rashed Jr. Michael Dwumfour Kyle Phillips

As you can see, this is a crowded DL room. At the same time, injuries happen and opportunity certainly could come knocking for a diligent, hard worker like Smart.

This is the type of player that you want to have around when attempting to change a franchise’s culture and spark a locker room to do something unexpected.

Head coach Robert Saleh once said that “if you coach and you invest and as a player, you reciprocate and invest back… that’s where you become an explosive team in a hurry.”

Douglas has invested and taken flyers on players like Smart over the past couple of offseasons to find a combination that works. As for the explosive part, that’s where Saleh comes in.

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