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View from the O-Zone: Good time to be Telvin Smith


JACKSONVILLE – He's not a prototype, and that's OK. It's more than OK, actually.

And you know what's cool for Telvin Smith? More and more, it seems like a lot of other people are starting to get it, too.

That's because more and more, the storyline around Smith is changing.

This time last year – and well into last season, actually – you couldn't talk about the Jaguars' young linebacker without the subject of his size (particularly his weight) coming up. And not only would it come up, it was pretty much THE topic when it came to Smith.

Now that's changed. Or it pretty much has changed, anyway.

"Technically it hasn't because we're talking about it," Smith said Sunday with a laugh.

Point taken.

It's not surprising that Smith was able to laugh at the situation. And not just because asking a player if he's glad he's not being asked a question by definition means he is getting asked that question.

Such irony aside, Smith is smiling a lot these days.

Yes, the questions about his size that got asked a lot last season are a lot fewer now – and the topic itself seems a lot less pertinent after he played at a high level throughout much of his rookie season.

But even beyond that, this is a good time to be Telvin Smith.

He's entering his second season as the Jaguars' starting weak-side linebacker, and it's hard to find someone associated with the defense who doesn't believe the improvement and playmaking ability he showed last season were just the first signs of bigger things soon to come.

"He's obviously a great athlete with great speed, but his instincts are improving now as well," middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "He knows where he needs to fit in the defense and what he needs to do, so mentally he's playing even faster."

He's playing even faster …

That's impressive, considering Smith played strikingly fast as a rookie. He played strikingly well at times, too, first earning the chance to start at weak-side linebacker then playing well enough in 10 starts to solidify the starting position entering this season.

His 99 tackles, nine tackles for loss, two sacks, an interception and two fumble recoveries told part of his rookie story. Another part was told a few days after last season when General Manager David Caldwell said if Smith plays for 16 games as he did the last five of last season he could be a "Pro Bowl-caliber" player.

That's significant potential, and a few days into camp, Smith looks like a player moving toward doing just that.

"He's always been a good football player, but I think his situational awareness … where he's talking about down and distance (has improved)," Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said. "He has a better idea how teams are going to try to attack the defense. That's where I see his growth coming on.

"When we talked about we have to have a race to maturity, he's on it. He would be one guy to say that's what we're talking about. He's really maturing quickly."

While Smith didn't say he felt like a "Year Two" guy necessarily, he said he does feel he's playing a little more comfortable.

"I'm not thinking as much as I did last year, but I feel like that comes with any system: the longer you play in it, the more comfortable you get," Smith said.

One thing Smith is and always has been comfortable with is his size. While the topic isn't nearly as pertinent as last year, it's still enough of a topic that it makes sense to address it. Yes, he's a little bigger than last season, when he played at 218 pounds. Yes, that's still light for an NFL linebacker. But no, he's not much worried about it.

"People are always going to say something about it," Smith said. "It's going to always be that way. People are going to always talk. I'm just going to keep making plays. That's all I can really do."

Smith on Sunday during practice made exactly the sort of play that has the Jaguars talking more about his production than size. On a play late in practice, a pass from quarterback Blake Bortles caromed from running back Toby Gerhart's hands into the air. Smith came from the sideline having covered a different receiver and made a diving interception.

"I've got more play recognition, seeing things, being able to feel things," Smith said. "Each time you're out there on the field, you learn something about the scheme and the play you're in."

And if Smith keeps learning, and if his level keeps rising …

Well, if those things keep happening the old storylines pretty soon won't seem pertinent at all.

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