Linebacker Malcolm Smith
An argument could be made that linebacker Malcolm Smith is a microcosm of the Oakland Raiders as a whole.
The former Super Bowl MVP signed with the Silver and Black prior to the start of the 2015 season, and while his signing was regarded as a good one at the time, Smith more than surpassed the outside expectations of how he would produce in his first year as a Raider.
The former USC Trojan put together a career year in 2015, starting all 16 games, leading the team with a career-high 143 tackles, and playing nearly every defensive snap throughout the season. Now, heading into 2016, Smith – much like the Raiders' in general – is a player who will have expectations attached to his play, but the added responsibilities are not something he is shying away from.
"Coming into last year I was ready for those responsibilities," said Smith after recently hosting his Smith Brothers Youth Football Camp at Skyline High School. "It's something I wanted. I don't know if it was known [by] Raiders' fans and stuff like that, but it's important for me to kind of step into that role, and lead where I can, just set an example at work every day like I'm supposed to."
As he heads into his second season as a Raider, not only is Smith more familiar with defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr.'s scheme, he is also more comfortable with the daily responsibilities and requirements expected of him – particularly at training camp.
"Just being familiar with the settings, being in Napa, how the fans come out, how they support; [I'm] just familiar with our staff a little bit more," Smith explained. "And football stuff – we're so much further along than we were last year. I'm looking forward to it. I'm excited; this is the most excited I've been about football in a long time."
Smith isn't alone in his eagerness for the 2016 season; there's a palpable excitement surrounding the team, and while Silver and Black enjoyed a quality Offseason Workout Program, No. 53 is more than ready for the work to begin at Training Camp 2016.
"Camp is going to raise our competition level on both sides of the ball," Smith said. "I'm really excited to just go out there and bang around, and get some opponents in front of us, and show what we can do as a group."
As far as the hype surrounding the team heading into the new season? Smith is embracing it, and believes that the 2016 Raiders are a team that deserve to have expectations attached to them.
"It's nice to have expectations," Smith said. "You want the fans to put that pressure on you. You want to put that pressure on yourself to succeed. I think that all goes hand in hand. You know what you want in life so you can get set those goals out and work for them, but if you don't put in the work, we're just talking."