Tremon Smith displayed a snapshot of his versatility and value against the New Orleans Saints in a preseason game.
The Texans' primary kickoff returner and backup cornerback intercepted a pass, returning it for a dozen yards. He also had a 25-yard kickoff return and a 12-yard punt return. He also had one tackle on defense and another one on special teams.
It's why the Texans re-signed him last year to a one-year deal with a maximum value of $1.6 million that includes $500,000 guaranteed and a $1.1 million base salary. Smith had a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown last season against the Jacksonville Jaguars and had 21 tackles and a fumble recovery in 17 games and two starts.
"The more things you do, the better your chances," Texans coach Lovie Smith said. "And Tremon is our returner. We know what he can do in that role. But when you say the more things you can do - to be able to do that and also play good ball at the cornerback position in a backup role is big for us.
"He will be our returner. That along with being able to do something else gives us flexibility. You still want to see guys make plays. We know when he gets the ball, he knows what to do with it, so it's good to see him handle that. You need a few guys on your roster that can do multiple things."
As an explosive kick returner and fast gunner who's a top reserve at cornerback, Smith reunited during the offseason with Texans special teams coordinator Frank Ross, who coached him previously with the Indianapolis Colts.
Smith isn't inclined to rest on his laurels after intercepting Ian Book against the Saints.
"The way I see it is, I’m happy to see where Tremon and the rest of the returners are at based on the work," Ross said. "He’s done a good job. That doesn’t mean the competition is over. We’ve got to improve, everybody as a group. If Tremon is satisfied, well, I’d tell you to ask him. He's a guy that wants to continue to improve. So whatever level we think he's at, we need him to get better as the entirety of the group.”
Smith has averaged 25.4 yards per kickoff return for his career.
He has 1,906 yards for his career.
To hear that Smith has already named him the primary returner meant a lot to Smith.
"That just gives me a lot of confidence coming from the head guy," Smith said. "I'd run through a brick wall for Lovie. He's a great coach and just a great guy in general."
A 2018 Kansas City Chiefs sixth-round draft pick from Central Arkansas, the 6-foot, 190-pounder averaged 26.8 yards per return as a rookie and was an all-rookie selection. He briefly played running back in Kansas City. Smith has also played for the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles.
"I love it," Smith said of his return role. "That's what I pride myself on, one of the things I pride myself on is kick return, trying to jump-start the offense anytime you can get some points on the board and play hard for Frankie."
And Smith can contribute on defense.
He has improved his coverage skills every year, and his athleticism makes him tough to beat.
"Lovie preaches eyes on the quarterback, vision on the quarterback," Smith said. "I got my good read route on the No. 1 and was able to get my eyes back, and I saw the ball pop up, and I was just breaking towards the ball as he preached."
"Just the patience and just being in the scheme for the second year, I'm just real comfortable with the scheme. It's just I don't have to think about the little things as much anymore, even though I detail the little things. I know everything he wants, and that's what we want from a corner on this defense."
Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and a contributor to Sports Talk 790.