The Jacksonville Jaguars have been about as far from competitive as a team can be in the NFL over the past 3 seasons, accumulating a paltry 9 wins since 2012. General manager David Caldwell began a mass exodus of the roster when he took over in 2013, and the team is just starting to turn the corner in terms of talent.
While the returns haven’t begun to arrive in the wins column, the team is clearly more talented than it was prior to 2013. Since 2011, the Jaguars have only had 3 players make the Pro Bowl – Maurice Jones-Drew (2011), Montell Owens (2011), and Paul Posluszny (2013). Three pro bowlers in 4 years is quite scant, especially when one of those players made it for special teams, and another made it as a deep alternate.
Fortunately, the Jaguars have a bevy of young players ready to breakout and become Pro Bowl caliber guys. In what will be our most optimistic series this offseason, we are going to profile some of the guys ready to “make the leap” so to speak. We keep it going with one of the players who probably has one of the higher chances to make it this year – second year linebacker Telvin Smith.
After an extremely promising rookie year, Smith has garnered plenty of positive attention this offseason. Heralded as an underrated player by some and a breakout candidate by others, Telvin Smith appears poised to use his elite speed and athleticism to become a consistent playmaker on the defensive side of the ball.
Despite being a 5th round pick and only playing sparingly until week 7 against the Cleveland Browns, Smith ranked 18th among the 40 qualifying 4-3 outside linebackers according to Pro Football Focus. Smith’s best stretch of football came in the middle of the season from week 7 to week 12, where his +7.7 overall grade from PFF was good for 7th among all 4-3 outside linebackers. That includes his breakout game in week 7 where he had a sack, interception, and was disruptive throughout the game in helping the Jaguars get their first win of the season.
Moving forward, Smith’s responsibilities will only grow. He will likely be on the field every down as he proved himself to be a competent run defender last year, and he’ll be called upon in coverage to help make up for the lack of speed in the rest of the linebacking corps (see: Paul Posluszny).
In order to make the Pro Bowl, Smith is going to have become extremely consistent and make big plays in the passing game. 4-3 OLBs are generally given less praise than 3-4 OLBs because they don’t rush the passer as much, but Smith has the overall skill set to make a big impact despite playing in a less prominent scheme. He’s primed to make the leap and the Jaguars would welcome it.
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