There are a few things that defenses can’t go without. One of them is a linebacking corps that knows how to make plays in both the run and the pass. All due respect to Russell Allen and Kyle Bosworth, but they do not present the same reliability, play recognition, or explosiveness that Daryl Smith does. Allen has worked his way into the starting lineup in the Jags’ 4-3, and that’s a good thing, but he just doesn’t rack up the same amount of tackles that Smith does.
The defense always looks different with Smith in the lineup. That late push by the Vikings to tie the game? I doubt it happens if the Jags’ defensive leader is on the field directing how everything should be going and ensuring that everyone knows that 20 seconds later they could be leaving the field with a victory.
It’s amazing what such a short amount of time can do in football, but it’s just that. As good as Paul Posluszny is at middle linebacker, he isn’t the heart and soul of the defense. And without the heart and soul of the defense, they can be deflated.
For a team that has relied so much on Smith (both as an outside and middle linebacker over the years), it is difficult to overcome his absence at linebacker. The guy has seven sacks, was in on 204 tackles, and three fumbles forced over the last two years with the team. For a defense that got two sacks and one forced fumble against the Vikings, the impact of Smith would still do a lot to change the fortune of that game.
I’m not saying he changes games on every down, but he does change the defense every down. When he’s on the field he elevates the play of the defense. He alleviates pressure on the defensive line because they know he has the gaps he’s responsible for. He alleviates pressure on the secondary because they know he’s the best cover linebacker on the team. He alleviates pressure in blitzes because the team knows he can get where he’s going consistently and be in the right spot to make a play.
That confidence comes from years of doing what is needed and leading by example. He’s a rally point for the defense.
With 20 seconds remaining, the defense desperately needed a rally point against the Vikings. Christian Ponder had led scoring drive after scoring drive and the team needed someone to bolster them. Unfortunately, Smith was on the sidelines that day. He may be on the sidelines against the Texans on Sunday as well. It’ll be tough for the Jags if they can’t get him back.
This defense is greater than the sum of its parts with him on the field. Without him, they just look like a bunch of guys. The Texans will make them look like it if he isn’t back in time for the game.
– Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims