Jacksonville Jaguars vs Carolina Panthers: 3 players in the spotlight

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Aug 22, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end

Chris Smith

(98) against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Smith, LEO

One thing became all-too clear this preseason: the Jaguars are in big trouble in terms of the pass rush. Losing Dante Fowler Jr. early in camp didn’t seem like too big of a deal at the time, but in retrospect it was just the beginning of the attrition along the defensive line. While he isn’t very good, Andre Branch is now out for a significant amount of time. Veteran defensive end Chris Clemons missed all of the voluntary workouts this offseason and didn’t get many reps in the preseason, meaning he has to hit the ground running in week 1 to try and improve off a disappointing 2014 campaign.

With all that in mind, all eyes turn to second year LEO Chris Smith. Coming out of Arkansas, Smith was seen mostly as a developmental rusher who could potentially have value as a situational guy. Smith didn’t play much last year (only 91 snaps), but he did manage to compile 3 sacks in that time. He’s been somewhat impressive this preseason, but he now needs to take a step and become a consistent edge rusher. He’s probably already better than Andre Branch (who the team insists on playing despite overall ineffectiveness), but the Jaguars need him or somebody else to provide a much needed pass rush.

If Smith is hoping to start the season strong, he couldn’t have asked for a better opponent. Getting to Cam Newton should be fairly easy against Michael Oher, one of the worst left tackles in football.

Next: The weak link on the offensive line