Rookie defensive back Antonio Johnson will be making the trip to London, meaning that the Jacksonville Jaguars believe he's close to returning from a hamstring injury that's forced him to miss the first three games of the 2023 season. Head coach Doug Pederson met with the local media Wednesday and offered an injury update on the former Texas A&M Auggie.
Pederson says Antonio Johnson will do some individual work and could be ready to play against the Buffalo Bills in Week 5.
"In regards to Antonio Johnson, he'll actually be able to do some things this week, individual wise just to get him back into practice a little bit and then we can actually practice him," Pederson said. "Next week, going into Buffalo and see where he's at. So there's a chance because he's on the 53 [man roster], he could make it for the Buffalo game."
Defensive end Dawuane Smoot will also make the trip to London. He's currently on Injury Reserve but because he was placed there after the season started, he's eligible to return after four weeks. Pederson says the team wants to acclimate him.
"In Smoot's case, we want to get him acclimated into practice. We don't have to activate him, we don't have to make a decision right away. We want to see where he's at, the rigors of practice and understanding that," Pederson said.
Johnson, dubbed an X-Factor in the offseason, showed promise in training camp. He was projected to go late in the first round or early in the second of this year's draft. However, he slid to the fifth. He's been inactive the last three games and based on Pederson's comments, he won't be suiting up against the Falcons but might be available against Buffalo.
Smoot suffered an Achilles tear against the New York Jets last year. He became a free agent in March but eventually return to the Jaguars. One reason he remained unsigned was that he was recovering from the injury. As Pederson noted, the team doesn't need to make a decision right away but the fact that he's making the trip to London indicates that he's close to coming back.
The Jaguars pass rush could get a boost once Dawuane Smoot returns
The Jaguars secondary is in good shape right now, so there's no need to rush Antonio Johnson. The pass rush, on the other hand, could get a huge boost once Dawuane Smoot returns. They started the season with a bang, registering fours sacks and eight total pressures in the opener. However, they've cooled down considerably the last two games. Against the Houston Texans, Jacksonville couldn't get to C.J. Stroud even once.
Now, Smoot alone won't solve the pass rush woes. He's not 100 percent yet and may need an acclimation period before he hits his stride. That said, having him back is good news. K'Lavon Chaisson is currently No. 3 in the rotation. Aside from a sack in Week 2, he's mostly been a non-factor.
Of course, Travon Walker and Josh Allen must also step up but adding Smoot to the rotation would take some pressure off their shoulders.
The Jaguars are 1-2 looking to bounce back when they face the Falcons in Week 4. Although neither Smoot or Johnson won't be available, it's good to know they're close to getting back on the football field.