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View from the O-Zone: Smith sets the tone for ’18 Training Camp

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JACKSONVILLE – Wednesday’s topic was expectations. As expected.

The answers were as expected, too.

Head Coach Doug Marrone, a one-day-at-a-time guy if ever there was one, took that old-school approach Wednesday when discussing the idea of expectations around the Jaguars being a bit loftier these days.

As for linebacker Telvin Smith …

Well, Smith unsurprisingly embraced the topic a bit more than his head coach.

“I think we’re the best team in the league,” Smith said. “I am not knocking anyone. There are some talented teams out there. If I don’t lock in right now and believe wholeheartedly that my team will be the last team standing, then I don’t think you really are ready for that fight that is about to come.”

Talk about nailing the moment. Talk about owning the day.

Smith did just that on Reporting Day 2018.

And you know what? Good for Smith.

Good for him for stepping behind a podium on the day veterans reported for Jaguars 2018 Training Camp at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex, and reiterating – once again and very much for the record – what many players said throughout the offseason.

The Jaguars’ goal is to get a step beyond where they got last season.

That means the goal is the Super Bowl.

That doesn’t mean players are looking ahead. And it sure doesn’t mean Marrone is looking even a day ahead is silly.

“When people say, ‘What is your expectation?’ I say, ‘My expectation today is this: ‘We have 90 players that are going to be here, and 53 are going to make the team.’ Really, my expectation is to make sure that we go out and compete, compete, compete, win everything that we do and try to find the best 53 on this team.

“I think once the team is formed and the team is made, then I think you start looking towards getting ready for what you are going to do during the season.”

What else do you expect Marrone – or any head coach – to say?

As for Smith, saying he believed the Jaguars are the NFL’s best team wasn’t his only notably confident statement Wednesday. Early in his availability, he was asked about Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson’s well-documented opinion that the Jaguars could go 16-0 this season.

Smith’s thoughts? “We want to be the best. The best have done it.”

Smith also was asked about the next level for a defense that ranked No. 2 in the NFL last season.

His thoughts? “Every great defense has won it all. That is what we want to be. A great defense is not mediocre. It is not to say you won a couple [division] championships. No, we want to say we dominated the world. That is the next step.”

What was intriguing and notable about Smith’s press conference Wednesday was it didn’t feel over the top. Nor did it feel like bragging.

Smith wasn’t selected as the lone player to speak on Reporting Day by chance. He has grown as a team leader in his five NFL seasons, and it’s not a reach to say he is the heart and soul of a team as long on heart and desire as it is in confidence.

Smith reflected that Wednesday. In the same answer in which he spoke of dominating the world, he spoke of he and veteran defensive end Calais Campbell discussing in detail the need to be better in crunch time. He spoke of four instances last season in which the defense failed to get stops for the offense in key situations. He spoke of the need to “put our foot on your throat and keep it there from the beginning to the end.”

This wasn’t bragging; it was about knowing a weakness and realizing the need to improve.

And that was the spirit of Smith’s availability Wednesday – not to boast or issue guarantees, but to state clearly this team’s expectations as ’18 camp begins.

“I think you can only set the bar too high when you do not believe in yourself,” Smith said. “I think this team is full of confidence, full of talent, full of hard work and dedication. The bar is as high as we set it.  It is not where can we go, it is where do we want to go. That is what we are working on right now, making sure we go where we want to go come February.”

Yes, Smith spoke for many Jaguars players Wednesday. This team understands its mission. Its comfortable with its task. It expects greatness. And it expects that greatness to come in the form of a Super Bowl.

As expected, the Jaguars’ heart and soul didn’t shy away from that Wednesday. As expected, he didn’t mince words. As expected, he nailed the moment and owned the day.

Good for him.

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