We set sail for the big break before training camp today. It puts us at 86 days until the start of the Raiders’ regular season. Sporting that number these days is the third tight end in our countdown.
TE Lee Smith
Smith has long been considered one of the better blocking tight ends in the NFL. He joined the Raiders two years ago as a free agent to provide that ‘goon’ aspect to the Raiders offense. For his first season with the team, he was a key part of the Raiders offense rising up and making the leap from 3 wins in 2014 to 7 wins in 2015.
After four games last season, he was lost to injury and it caused the Raiders to have to line up in jumbo packages all season to make up for it. That’s fine from a blocking standpoint, but it all but removes the threat that he could run a route and catch a pass. He doesn’t see a lot of passes — averaging one target per game — but the threat of that forces to defense to account for it.
At 6-6, 269 pounds, Smith is a mountain of a man. He is an imposing figure who intimidates opposing rush linebackers. Blocking through the whistle can tend to wear them down and frustrate them as well. He’s the kind of guy you love to have on your side, but hate if he’s on the opposing side.
Who wore it best: LB Gerald Irons
Aside from having a badass name, Irons fit that name for four seasons from 1972 to 1975. In that time he started every single game for the Raiders. Originally a third round pick in the 1970 draft, he spent a total of six seasons in Oakland. After those six seasons, he moved on to play for the Browns for four seasons, also not missing a start of his first three seasons there.
Back then, sacks and tackles were not an official statistic so we don't know what kind of numbers he put up in those areas. Though he did have seven interceptions in those four seasons as the full time starter. He started a total of 56 regular season games and appeared in nine playoff games, seven as a starter. Unfortunately for him, he never saw the team finally break through to win the Super Bowl. That happened the season after he left for Cleveland.
Gerald's son Grant also played with the Raiders, appearing in 41 games over four seasons from 2003-06.