In a Bradley coached scheme, a speedy and undersized linebacker like Telvin Smith has to bear watching. The 2014 fifth-round pick will work with a coaching staff that has placed a premium on quickness and athleticism at the linebacker level.
That's why Bradley added veteran Geno Hayes last offseason, because he wants linebackers fast in pursuit and nimble in coverage. Smith certainly possesses those attributes.
The 6'3", 218-pound ex-Florida State ace has wasted no time catching the eye of his new coach this offseason, per Hays Carlyon of The Florida Times-Union:
On Friday, the 6-foot-3, 218-pound Smith reacted quickly to a check-down pass, showing off his burst. Later in the practice, he was responsible for second-round pick Marqise Lee in the slot. Quarterback Blake Bortles, the third-overall pick, looked to Lee the whole play while rolling out, but Smith had Lee covered. Bortles kept the ball, running out of bounds. Babich ran 20 yards to go celebrate with Smith.
Quickly filling passing lanes and showing the athleticism to track receivers out of the slot is exactly the level of range and versatility Bradley wants at linebacker. They are qualities that can allow this defense to adopt seven- and eight-man coverage shells from base and nickel fronts.
That's how Bradley often operated the defense in Seattle when he ran the Seahawks' tough unit for four seasons before taking over in Jacksonville. If fresh talent can generate greater pressure up front, allowing Bradley to drop seven more often, the Jags will be tough to score on in 2014.
But that plan will rely as much on athletic linebackers like Smith as it will on pass-rushers like Clemons and Branch. That makes Smith's performances during camp mandatory viewing.
If he makes positive progress, this late-round tweener will become a regular in either the base or nickel fronts during his rookie season.
These five sleepers can arise from their slumbers to make significant contributions this season. Each has the potential to become a key figure in schemes that will be more expansive on both sides of the ball.