The first takeaway from the Lovie Smith era — at least during the preseason — came when Houston Texans cornerback Tremon Smith picked New Orleans Saints quarterback Ian Book.
Smith came on with the deflected pass with 3:03 left in the first quarter and returned free possession 12 yards at the Saints’ 34-yard line in Houston’s 17-13 win Saturday night at NRG Stadium.
The pick was another example of what Smith can provide on defense. The 26-year-old from central Arkansas is already an exceptional returner having posted a return of 25.6 yards per kickoff last year with a touchdown.
“The more stuff you do, the better your chances, and Tremon is our revenant,” Smith told reporters. “He collected the ball in the end zone. We have seen it. We know what he can do in this role.
What Smith would like to see from the veteran fifth-year cornerback is the activation of his returner skills after finding a takeaway.
“When you say you can do more stuff – being able to do that and also play a good ball at cornerback in a substitute role is important to us,” Smith said. “And it’s always good when a cornerback gets his hands on the ball. What I expect when he gets his hands on the ball, since he’s our returner, I was hoping he could maneuver and use some of these moves to get him into the end zone.
In terms of return, Smith’s interception return was three yards shorter than his only punt return of the night. Smith also had a 25-yard kickoff return against the Saints.
If Smith was able to get at least 25 yards per catch to go, it would help the Texans offense with a favorable field position.
“We’ll be working on that next week,” Smith said.