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Jacquies Smith makes name for himself with Bucs

Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Jacquies Smith (56) after sacking Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) in the third quarter of the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Tennessee Titans in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times

Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Jacquies Smith (56) after sacking Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) in the third quarter of the game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Tennessee Titans in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015. JIM DAMASKE | Times
Published Sep. 25, 2015

TAMPA — Perhaps a half-hour after Sunday's Bucs win in New Orleans, defensive end Jacquies Smith picked up his bag at his locker and headed for the team bus, his bow tie hanging from his neck untied.

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy saw him and called him back with a quick lesson: You get three sacks in a game, you have to tie your tie before you leave the locker room.

Before this season, Bucs fans had good reason to think that in Week 3, as Tampa Bay travels to play Houston, they might get a chance to see the NFL's sack leader. The surprise is that it's not Texans superstar J.J. Watt, but the Bucs' Smith, who has four in the first two games of the season.

"It's a great accolade," said Smith, who showed promise last year, getting 61/2 sacks in the final nine games. "I was just glad we got a 'W' under our belt. I'm just trying to do my job to the best of my abilities."

He wasn't wearing a bow tie Wednesday, but Smith had a national appearance on the NFL Network, a sign of how the rest of the league has noticed him. A year ago, the Bucs picked him off waivers from the Bills, spotting a pass-rusher who had been cut by the Dolphins and Jets without playing a single regular-season game in the previous two years.

Bucs coach Lovie Smith called him "a legitimate outside pass-rusher" after Sunday's breakout game — three sacks of Drew Brees, twice forcing fumbles that the Saints recovered but for lost yardage. Since Nov. 2 of last season, when Jacquies had his first career sack, he has 101/2 sacks in 11 games. The only two players in the NFL with more are Watt and the Chiefs' Justin Houston.

He'll get a chance to share the field with Watt on Sunday, not only as a peer, but with one more sack than a two-time NFL defensive player of the year to start the season.

"I have a great deal of respect for a guy like that," Jacquies said. "He's done it on a consistent level for years. He's one of the best players in the league. You have to tip your hat off to him. I watch him because he's a great defensive lineman."

Smith's early-season success is all the more impressive given that he played a total of 13 snaps in one preseason game. He was held out of the other three with a shoulder injury.

"There were flashes a season ago that he had a chance to put together a game like he had on Sunday," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "We're hoping that as the season goes on, he'll get better and better. He missed a lot of training camp because of an injury, so to see him come back and play the way he played in the second game of the season is very encouraging."

Smith, 25, is in his second year from a contract standpoint, so he wouldn't be an unrestricted free agent until the spring of 2018, allowing him to be a key young piece of the Bucs' defense moving forward.

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Bucs fans are still learning his name — it's jock-KWEESE, or as Lovie Smith often calls him, "Jack" — but his head coach is happy to see the rest of the league finding out the kind of player the Bucs have known they had in him.

"When you're productive, people take notice," the coach said Thursday. "A game like that, you should acknowledge it. He's been a good player for us since he's been here. … We need him to continue to play like that."

Contact Greg Auman at gauman@tampabay.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

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