Malcolm Smith vs. Coby Fleener
The Saints signed Coby Fleener this offseason with the hope that he will be able to be the most productive TE that the team has had since Jimmy Graham.
Fleener’s chemistry with Andrew Luck will be tough for Brees to duplicate, but his talent is undeniable. He will likely be an improvement over Ben Watson from last season simply due to youth and the volume of targets he should expect.
Brees loves a young athletic TE that can go up and bring down the football so Fleener’s stats should see a significant boost.
Malcolm Smith has earned his starting role as the weakside linebacker after being in a LB competition of sorts. With the versatility of the Raiders’ defense, look for Smith to see snaps all over the defense, including ILB.
Smith is an athletic LB that is a good fit in the pass happy league that the NFL is evolving into. Smith will likely be in one-on-one coverage often with Fleener due to the height advantage that Fleener would have on safety Karl Joseph and the strength advantage that Fleener would have over safety Nate Allen.
Last season the Raider’s achilles heel was covering TE’s. The team never really found a way to stop TE’s around the league. Malcolm Smith and the other LB’s lacked the fluidity and the safeties lacked the size to cover them.
Smith will have to figure out quickly how to use his athletic ability to his advantage or the Raiders could find themselves in a hole early. Fleener may represent the biggest threat to a Raider victory on Sunday and it will be up to Malcolm to figure out how to leave the TE problem in 2015.