JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines Day 10 of Jaguars 2016 Training Camp, with an eye on LB Telvin Smith, RB Chris Ivory and WR Marqise Lee
The smile was perceptible and real.
Telvin Smith was talking about speed, and as one of the Jaguars' fastest defensive players, he was asked if he saw a noticeable difference in that area from last season.
The Jaguars' third-year weak-side linebacker responded by mentioning how another fast player – defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. – and a more disruptive pass rush had the potential to help a lot of other players play a lot faster.
"It's definitely going to be a test to see who's going to make more plays," Smith said Monday.
Indeed, that's the feel after a week and a half of Jaguars 2016 Training Camp – that this faster, deeper, more-talented unit has potential to make more impact, game-changing plays than the past three seasons.
Evidence has been seen early, with the defense forcing more takeaways in the offseason than offseasons past – and with the secondary seemingly making more plays on the ball in this year's training camp than in past versions.
Smith, a starter since midway through his rookie season, figures to be part of that improvement – and Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley on Monday said Smith appears to be improving his consistency, an area of focus entering training camp.
Bradley also said he sees Smith playing with more poise.
"He's got a better understanding," Bradley said. "I think we challenge him, like the whole team, about consistency. You saw really good flashes [last season] then there'd be a play here or a play there that would give up an explosive play. So he's really concentrating on that and his run fits, becoming a complete player."
Smith said improving against the run also is a focus.
"I'll fix the things like that – just be more precise," he said. "The indecision causes a lot of big runs. Not necessarily myself, but a couple were on me. But I know if I know what I got to do and I know I'm right then the other guys are doing the same thing."
To listen to Smith Monday was to listen to a player excited about the possibilities of the coming season. With more playmakers around him, Smith could be in position to make more impact plays – the turnover-creating, game-changing plays for which he has shown a knack in two seasons.
"We are going to have a tremendous D-line," Smith said, adding, "I would just say, we have a lot more confidence and the expectations of the team and how we should produce is really big right now for us. We're trying to ride this wave until it's done."
Images from Monday's training camp practice.
Chris Ivory is a big reason the Jaguars believe they will be an improved running team this season, and the AFC's leading rusher last season said he likes what he sees so far during camp. "I like what I see that we do against our defense," said Ivory, who signed as an unrestricted free agent from the Jets in March. "I like the scheme. Once we play against other opponents, we'll be able to gauge the way we run then." Ivory said the first test will be against his former team Thursday, though the ultimate gauge won't come until the regular season. "You can get an idea, but it doesn't tell it all just because you're not playing a full game," he said. "You're playing a few series and a few series is probably about 15 minutes – if that. It's hard to gauge it, but based off practice and what we do here I think we look pretty good running the ball."
"I say we got two guys that are as advertised."
Jaguars LB Telvin Smith on DE Dante Fowler Jr. and CB Jalen Ramsey
*All is not lost for Marqise Lee. Lee returned to practice Monday after being out since the first day of camp with a hamstring issue. His status for Thursday's preseason opener still isn't known, but the third-year receiver looked quick and confident Monday – and he remained optimistic when speaking to the media after practice. "I was a little rusty, but I felt good," he said. "I haven't lost anything as far as technique and the way I do the things I do. I'm not worried. I'm stress-free." Whether or not Lee plays Thursday, if he can be healthy and play in the final three preseason games, that's plenty of time to be ready for the regular season – and for the Jaguars to know how they want to use him in the offense. …
*One player to watch in Thursday's preseason opener: wide receiver Jamal Robinson, an undrafted rookie free agent from Louisiana-Lafayette. Robinson (6-feet-4, 207 pounds) appears to be a long shot to make the roster at a deep, talented position, but he has flashed with memorable plays throughout camp – even before Monday, when his one-handed, 25-yard reception was a highlight. Robinson has big-time size for the position and may be a player the Jaguars want on the practice squad as a developmental player for the future. …