Illinois football had a legendary secondary in 2022, and one of the players who is flying under the radar in that secondary is Kendall Smith.
Smith started his Illini career as a wide receiver and someone who was mainly on special teams. He would switch over to the safety position in 2018, and his development from that point on was impressive. Smith wouldn’t really catch on in the defensive backfield until his senior year. In 2022, he would earn All-Big Ten honorable mention.
During the 2022 campaign, Smith would finish with 39.0 tackles, 5.0 interceptions, and 5.0 pass deflections. He was always a ball hawk, and this caught the eye of some NFL teams.
While Smith would go undrafted in the 2023 NFL Draft, he was quickly scooped up as an undrafted free agent. The Washington Commanders liked what they saw, and now Smith is paired up with his Illinois teammate, Jartavius Martin.
Washington Commanders depth chart projection – Kendall Smith
The Commanders’ secondary is stacked. They have some impressive talent at every level. As of right now, Smith is slotted as a fourth-string strong safety for Washington. He is behind starter Kamren Curl, second-stringer Jeremy Reaves, and third-stringer Troy Apke.
There haven’t been reports about how Smith is doing for the Commanders, and it worries me that he might end up being a cut casualty in the preseason. Teams need to get down to 53 players on the active roster by August 29.
Thankfully, Smith plays an important position. He also has a player in Apke in front of him who only played in two games in 2022. There is a chance that Smith can manage to hop over him in the preseason.
If Smith comes out in the first couple of preseason games and plays well, then there is a chance he makes the 53-man roster. It is a tough uphill climb, though. I think there is a chance he makes it and sees some reserve snaps for the Commanders in 2023.