JACKSONVILLE – Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer wanted pass-rushing defensive end Jordan Smith from Alabama-Birmingham during April's 2021 NFL Draft enough to wheel and deal to move up in the fourth round for the tantalizing prospect. Smith stands nearly 6-feet-7 inches and has the frame, wingspan and flexibility to be a force in the Jaguars' new 3-4 defensive alignment. Meyer put a verbal asterisk next to Smith at the end of Draft Weekend when he told the media Smith would be a developmental guy, a player who has plenty to work with but lots to learn about playing in the NFL. You can see the athleticism when he walks onto the field – and you can clearly understand why Meyer was so quick to give a guy with prototypical size and skills the kind of timeframe that would ensure he develops because guys who look and move like Smith aren't common. Here's senior correspondent Brian Sexton's recent conversation with Smith:
Question: Meyer told us in April you were a guy who would pass the eye test with the way you look and move, but that you would need some time and patience as you learn the game at this level. How's it going as we come to the end of training camp?
I agree. They brought me in to be a big piece of the defense and I feel like I've had to pick up a lot of weight and put it on my shoulders to adjust to the rookie transition. I feel like they've treated me like a veteran and a grown man, because they want me to be able to do a lot and they've put a lot on my plate – and I appreciate that. They want me to do a lot of good things here and they believe in me, and I want to give that back to them sooner rather than later. I get the developmental piece, but I think I can do it faster than maybe they expected me to be able to – to adjust and put some of the weight of making plays on my shoulders.
Q: How would you describe the transition from UAB – where you racked up 23.5 sacks and created all kinds of havoc – to the NFL?
A: It's a big adjustment. It's a lot faster. The game moves a lot faster. There are a lot more pre-snap things that you have to go through in your head, so it makes it a little slower as far as processing. But so far, it has been a good transition. I feel like I am making progress. It's getting to be a lot slower to me now than it was when I first got here. I feel like it's the intellectual side that's coming on. The more you know, the less you have to work to process everything – which allows you to play faster. As much as I think now I know, there's another level that I want to get to so that I can let it all go and rush the passer.
Q: Do you understand the approach of giving you the time to learn and develop? Is it a benefit to you?
A: I've always been "the guy" wherever I've been, and I think it's good as a rookie to take a step back and kind of, you know, take it all in – how the veterans work and manage the whole day and how other guys lead and in the locker room and on the practice field, and how they train so that when it's my time to play and lead I know what it takes to be great in the league. I'm loving the chance to watch guys and not have to be out in front, but I know that they expect I will be soon, and I'll be ready when that day comes when it's on me and my shoulders.
Q:You had a bump in the road, off the field in your career, but the word from the folks in Birmingham is that you learned from it and the maturity showed every day you were with the Blazers program. How did adversity shape you and how does it impact you even now?
A: Being in the NFL challenges you daily, so going through a challenging situation in my career has given me the chance to prepare for whatever comes at me in the NFL. I know that whatever comes at me I can handle because I've been through some things. I don't spend too much time looking back, you know. It has its place and helps me prepare, but I'm focused on making sure I'm ready for whatever on a daily basis because that's how you overcome – by being prepared and taking it daily.
Q: Meyer is known for being demanding and pushing players every play, every day on the practice field. What are your impressions of what he wants to build and how he wants to build it in Jacksonville?
A: I feel like Urban Meyer is doing what he said he would do when he signed his contract. He's here to build a winner and apparently this place needed a culture change and he's definitely impacting, you know, building the culture every single day. I can see how hard he's working and he's working everybody harder than they probably ever have worked before. I know that is definitely the case with me. He wants to see if we want it as much as he does, and I definitely do want to up it to another level. He won at Florida and Ohio State, but the league is another level and so he has to up his game and so do we. The coaching staff, all the assistants, have that same plus two mentality and it is becoming the culture and I love it.
Q: Describe the "plus-two" mentality that Meyer speaks of often. I know that's a big part of the culture.
A: "Plus-two" is like when your coach tells you to run to the ten-yard line you run to the twelve. If he asks you to do two reps, you do four. We're adding to the work so that we play as hard as we train. I've always played like that, but as far as doing it every single rep on the practice field, that's making me work harder and be better. I can feel it physically, but it also puts you in a different type of mental place as well.
Q: What have you learned and what do you expect to learn from having Jaguars defensive end Josh Allen in your meeting room and on the field?
A: Josh Allen can be a great example to anyone – football or not. You can learn anything from that man. How to be a great man and how to be a great football player, how to deal with adversity on the field and off … anything you ask him, he's an open book. He's a great guy and I'm blessed to have him in the room as the veteran because he's going to put me under his wing. Every time I'm in, he watches me and critiques me and I'm really lucky to have him in my corner.