Jacksonville's defense is finally putting on the field what it's shown on paper in the last few years, and a big part of that is the performance of linebacker Telvin Smith.
Smith has been part of a linebacking corps that includes veteran Paul Posluszny and potential-packed Myles Jack and has terrorized the majority of the Jaguars' opponents in 2017, with Smith leading the way. It doesn't show in the statistics quite as much -- Smith has 58 tackles, one sack, three passes defensed, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one defensive touchdown in 2017 -- but all one needs is to watch one half of a Jaguars game to spot its most effective front-seven defender, and that's Smith. We've raved about him more than once in game recaps and on the Around The NFL Podcast, and Jacksonville Jaguars executive VP of football operations Tom Coughlin and general manager David Caldwell got ahead of the storm of suitors Smith would have had lining up outside his front door by locking down the linebacker before he could hit free agency after this season.
"Telvin has been a productive player and an important part of our defense, and he has earned this second contract," Coughlin said in a statement released by the team. "We want to identify the players who will contribute to help this team win going forward, and reward those who can do that. Telvin is certainly one of those players for us. This is a high performance business, and we look for his continued development as a team leader both on and off the field. Along with this new contract Telvin must accept the high expectations that go with it."
The new expectations are exponentially larger than those placed on him (if any) when he was selected by Jacksonville in the fifth round of the 2014 draft out of Florida State, where he the led the team in tackles during the Seminoles' national championship season. Smith appreciates the chance Jacksonville took on him back then, though, making as much clear in the team's release.
"I am excited about the opportunity to continue my career in Jacksonville and stay with the team that believed in me coming into the league in 2014," Smith said. "I am grateful for my family, my friends, my teammates, my coaches and the incredible Jaguars fans for always supporting me and allowing me to play this game that I love. ... We have created a bond in that locker room and everyone is committed to our goal of winning football games. I am honored to be a part of that culture and help continue to lead this team in the right direction."
Jacksonville has won the majority of its games in 2017 on the back of its swarming, relentless defense. The unit racked up 10 sacks last week, with much of the disruption provided by Smith. He pops out on tape and he'll pop out in the team's salary breakdown (he moves from finally breaking $1 million per year in 2017 to making an average of $11 million starting in 2018), but it's well-deserved as Jacksonville attempts to secure the core of its exciting defense.