Today the Raiders made it official, sending tight end Lee Smith to injured reserve. Smith suffered an ankle injury early in last Sunday’s game when Ravens’ defensive back Jimmy Smith dove at the back of his knees on a reception.
For some, who look only at numbers, losing Smith may not seem like a big deal. But it kinda is. He was signed prior to last season as a blocking tight end. He is one of the bests in the business at that job and he brings an attitude to the Raiders offense is quite valuable as well.
“He’s a vital cog,” Jack Del Rio said of his veteran tight end. “He’s a vital piece of it for sure.”
To take his place on the roster, they called up undrafted rookie tight end Ryan O’Malley from the practice squad. But O’Malley isn’t a great blocker. Neither is Mychal Rivera. In fact, starting tight end Clive Walford may be the best blocker among them, and they would prefer to send him out as a receiver.
“It’ll take several people, in all likelihood, to fill his shoes because of all that he did, mainly the dirty work.” Del Rio continued. “Mainly the blocking, the dirty work. Kind of an unsung hero kind of role where he’s just very tough, very determined. Yeah, we’ll miss him for sure, but like we do, we’ll plug in. We’ll design around anything we need to design around. We won’t ask people to do things they’re not capable of doing.”