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Raiders fullback Keith Smith is doing the ugly work beautifully

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NFL: Detroit Lions at Oakland Raiders Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland Raiders free agent fullback acquisition Keith Smith should have been up for a ‘Gruden Grinder’ award after his performance in Friday’s preseason contest. Smith wasted no time in making his impact felt on the football field. The Raiders signed Smith to be a blocking fullback, paving the way for Marshawn Lynch and co. Smith is a former linebacker, and he brings that same drive, intensity, and heart to the offensive side of the ball.

The rushing attack was the focal point of the offense, responsible for 20 first downs and 30% of converted first downs in the game. Smith and the Raiders won the time of possession battle in the first quarter, while he was in the game.

He plays a huge role, makes a difference, and doubles down on the toughness of the offense. Smith, a hard-nosed fullback, enjoys hitting people. Despite his efforts rarely appearing on the stat sheet, his blocking has made an instant impact. Head coach Jon Gruden let go of fan favorite Jamize Oluwale because he didn’t fit his version of a fullback.

In his first year at fullback (a converted linebacker), Smith was the lead blocker for Ezekiel Elliott during his rushing title season. Smith, hasn’t been called on much to handle the football, he has two rushing attempts and eight receptions in his career. But his linebacker mentality has served him well as a lead blocker.

Smith was one of the best inside linebackers to suit up for the San Jose State Spartans. Amassing 45 starts, 476 tackles (second all-time in school history), 29 tackles for loss and eight forced fumbles. He plays with high levels of aggression and whistle to whistle, on every play. He attacks defenders on every play in a way we haven’t seen out of the fullback since the days of a bloodied Jon Ritchie. Fullback isn’t for the faint at heart, and we appear to have just the man for the job.