Yesterday afternoon, Pro Football Focus released their rundown of the top ten single-game performances by 3-4 defensive ends in 2011. They have a system in place for grading players and they have spent the last few weeks providing a breakdown of the top ten graded performances by position.
It should surprise nobody that Justin Smith had a few appearances in the list. PFF rated out Smith as the second best player in the NFL, and he made five appearances in the top ten single game list. He had the top two performances, one at fifth and two tied for seventh:
1. @ Detroit (Week 6)
2. vs. Giants (NFC Championship Game)
5. vs. Dallas (Week 2)
t-7. vs. Seahawks (Week 1)
t-7. vs. Giants (Week 10)
This article came a day before NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah ranked Cowboy as one of the seven most dominant players in the NFL right now. We've known for some time that Smith is a beast, and it is nice that he is finally getting the proper recognition for his ability.
Smith will turn 33 in late September, and is showing no signs of slowing down. Of course, we often see quality players run into a brick wall unexpectedly, leading to a precipitous decline in their skills. If Smith can maintain his skills for a few more years, it raises some interesting possibilities for his long-term legacy.
The immediate question in my head: could he earn a spot in the Hall of Fame?
Smith role in the 49ers 3-4 defense means he lacks the counting stats that assure an HOF candidacy. However, his dominance in recent years is second to none. He still manages decent counting stats in spite of the normal 3-4 DE role. He has a ridiculous motor and he somehow finds himself in the backfield mix for so many defensive plays.
Personally I would not be surprised to see him get overlooked in HOF balloting, but I think there is an argument to be made that his dominance is Hall-worthy. What do you think?