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Hail Rookie Special Edition Q&A with James Smith-Williams | Washington Redskins

Updated: Nov 24, 2021


By Adam Aniba

The Redskins 229th Overall 2020 Draft Selection

We are back for a second installment of “Hail Rookie”, with one of the newest and brightest Redskins rookies. The Burgundy and Gold Report picked the brain of recently drafted, Redskins rookie, James Smith-Williams during an exclusive Q&A session. In previous Q&A’s, NFL draft hopefuls from the small school level have been the subject matter, so having the opportunity to go 1 on 1 with a current player was a privilege.

The NC State defensive end wasn’t on many Redskins fans’ radar, especially after Washington’s selection of Young. James Smith-Williams’ 2018 season was his best, registering 37 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, and 6 sacks. Missing over 50% of games he was eligible to play in from ‘15-’19 due to various injuries, led to a draft day fall for Smith-Williams. Some said he would go as early as the fourth round, if not for his injury red flags. One thing is certain; the Wolfpack defensive end showed growth as a pass rusher every season at NC State and proved to be a stalwart in the trenches.


Washington’s defensive philosophy switch to the 4-3 has made the additions of Sweat, Young and now James Smith-Williams, moves that will improve a pass rush that has been lacking for decades. Ryan Kerrigan has become a forgotten man with some fans after the selection of Young, but he’ll be another cog in Rivera’s defense.

Various Washington media outlets have focused on the Wolfpack defensive ends stats, limited production and injury red flags in their post draft write ups, rather than focus on his potential and ceiling in an already robust rotation. This article is more about JSW discussing what he needs to do to excel as a pro, in addition to his possible role this season and beyond.


Getting to Know the New Skins Defensive End

During the Q&A session with The Burgundy and Gold Report, James Smith-Williams discussed some concerns that reportedly led to him falling in the draft. He was asked if he’s currently dealing with any lingering issues and what will he’ll do different to preserve his body on the next level:

“No, I’m lucky that I only required one surgery and outside of that I’ve been pretty healthy. I think the injury narrative was blown out of proportion. I had one nagging injury this past year but it did lead to me having a much more regimented routine in terms of what I eat, a ton of prehab and yoga”.

Smith-Williams’ best attributes are his speed and burst off the snap. The defensive end was asked what he felt he needed to work on most to be an effective every down defensive end in the NFL:

“I think for me I’ve identified hand usage as one of the areas I’d like to improve on that I think will really take my game to the next level”.

We also discussed a few current and former players that James-Williams followed growing up and which ones he modeled his game after

“Currently I’m a big Khalil Mack fan, he has violent hands and plays with a ton of intensity. Former player I’d have to say Julius Peppers”.

We wrapped up the discussion talking about what he felt he improved on most from his freshman year to his final year at NC State

“I think for me, gaining the weight and learning how to play with it/use it was my biggest improvement”.

Role in Washington

If the Redskins want to stay competitive, being aggressive on defense will be key. In order to have success, utilizing the depth they have stockpiled on the defensive line will be a point of emphasis. New Defensive Coordinator, Jack Del Rio, has displayed the ability to take bottom ranked defenses and catapult them to top ten status. Utilizing a frequent rotation with healthy bodies along the defensive line has been the foundation of Del Rio’s success. Player’s like Chase Young, Montez Sweat, John Allen, Daron Payne, Matt Ioannidis and Ryan Kerrigan will form the nucleus and strength of this defense. Reserves Tim Settle, Jordan Brailford, Nate Orchard, Caleb Brantley will be in the mix for roster spots and in constant competition for playing time, so where does that leave James Smith-Williams?


JSW’s boasts impressive 4.6 speed for a man his size (6’4” 265 lbs) and impressed onlookers at the NFL Combine. Smith-Williams downplayed the durability concerns during the Q&A and believes his dedication to weight lifting and his overall all fitness will greatly benefit him on the next level. If the rookie can stay healthy through August, he’ll have a legit shot at making the roster and will no doubt impress coaches with his tireless work ethic and overall intelligence. Some believe the practice squad might be the likely destination for the 7th rounder, based on where he was selected and the current depth along the defensive line. Regardless, the rookie defensive end will add another high ceiling developmental-prospect to a defense that has fans salivating in anticipation.

Give James Smith-Williams a follow on Twitter @jacsw3 ‬ 

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