JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's five Wednesday takeaways as the Jaguars prepare to play the San Diego Chargers at EverBank Field Sunday
1)Better and better.We begin this Wednesday takeaways with Telvin Smith, and it's difficult to discuss the Jaguars' defense these days without focusing on the second-year weak-side linebacker. Smith's play in recent weeks merits consideration for postseason honors, and he also has 11 consecutive games with seven or more tackles, the NFL's longest such streak. "He's getting better and better each week," Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said of Smith. "You see him playing faster mentally – the tackles for losses, bang-bang plays. The more he plays, he continues to rise." How good can Smith eventually be? "We're a 4-3 team," Posluszny said. "When this happens, I don't know, but he can be the best (4-3 outside linebacker) in the league – because of physically what he can do and mentally, he has the right mindset." Smith is tied for second in the NFL with 88 tackles this season and his 151 tackles since Week 12 of last season ranks first in the NFL.
2)Rivalry in the UK.The NFL on Wednesday morning announced its plans for the 2016 International Series, with the Jaguars scheduled to play the Indianapolis Colts at Wembley Stadium in London on October 2 – Week 4 of the '16 season. It will be the fourth time in as many seasons that the Jaguars have played a home game at Wembley, but the first time that that game has been against an AFC South opponent. Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said Thursday the team takes the same approach – that Wembley is a home game and therefore must be an advantage – whether or not London is a rivalry game. "I think we're trying to make that truly a home game for us whoever we play," Bradley said. "It's decided on Indianapolis and that's good. We made a commitment over there and I think it's good. We knew it was going to come that we were going to play a divisional opponent over there sometime and it just happens to be next year."
Check out images from Wednesday's practice as the Jaguars prepare to host the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.
*3)Total command. *We touched on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers in Tuesday takeaways, but as Sunday approaches, the 12th-year veteran merits a second look. The San Diego offense ranks fourth in the NFL in total offense – first in passing yardage – despite a slew of injuries at the skill positions and despite rookie running back Melvin Gordon averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. The key to the offense is Rivers, and Posluszny said Rivers' effectiveness goes well beyond accuracy, timing, field vision, etc. Posluszny said in recent seasons Rivers has continually developed greater command of an already deep knowledge of the offense, enabling him to direct more of the offense from the line of scrimmage. That's a veteran trait that makes the Chargers' offense dangerous whatever the personnel around Rivers. "He's very good with checking things at the line, which makes it a little harder on a defense," Posluszny said. "He has the ability to do it all the time now. Whether that was the case years before, I'm not sure, but now a lot of stuff is checked at the line and he's able to get them in really, really good calls. … They're able to get into exactly what they want to be in, and that makes it really hard for a defense. By what he's able to do at the line, he puts them in an ideal position."
4)Staying at the Otto.One area to watch defensively for the Jaguars Sunday: Otto linebacker, where Thurston Armbrister likely will start in place of Dan Skuta for a second time in three games. Armbrister started at middle linebacker in place of Posluszny against Tampa Bay in Week 5, moving to the Otto position after the Jaguars struggled defensively against the run in that game. Armbrister appeared to play better against the run when starting against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 10. He had three tackles and a quarterback hurry in that game and had three more tackles playing 13 plays after Skuta left last Thursday's victory over Tennessee. "He's playing a different position but I think it's getting better," defensive coordinator Bob Babich said Wednesday. "He's been thrown into a tough situation but he has made some plays and done some really good things. Once again, he's a young guy that has bounced around. Now we've got him settled into the Otto position and I think he could do nothing but get better."
5)Blitz, baby.Aaron Colvin still prefers interceptions to sacks. The second-year cornerback said that earlier this season, and that doesn't sound likely to change. "I love interceptions, that's No. 1 on my list," Colvin said with a smile Wednesday, "but sacks are always cool, too." How cool? Cool enough that he leads the Jaguars with four sacks after registering one against the Titans last Thursday – and cool enough that he has become perhaps the team's best blitzer coming off the corner. "He does have a knack of blitzing," Bradley said Thursday. "I think he understands it, but he's taking advantage of his opportunities." Colvin, who didn't blitz often collegiately at Oklahoma, said he didn't expect to lead the team in sacks through 10 games, and said Babich's schemes have enabled him opportunities. He also said the process has become a bit more difficult with success, with teams shading running backs to his side of the line at times. "Any time they send me, I feel like I can get there no matter what," Colvin said. "I just have to find a way to be disruptive."