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Bradley signed Geno Hayes last offseason to provide some much-needed speed and athleticism to the linebacker corps. But just one season later, Bradley may be ready to upgrade Hayes.
It's the performances of rookie Telvin Smith that will likely have Bradley and defensive coordinator Bob Babich thinking change. The former Florida playmaker has been delivering some opportunistic plays in prominent roles during training camp.
ESPN Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco detailed Smith's latest positive effort:
Rookie linebacker Telvin Smith, who is up to 219 pounds after reporting to rookie minicamp at 218, flashed his speed with an interception return for a touchdown. Defensive tackle Ziggy Hood tipped Chad Henne’s pass at the line of scrimmage and Smith grabbed the deflection and scored. Smith has been getting reps with the first-team defense in the nickel package to take advantage of his speed. 'We’ll see how that works out with Geno [Hayes],' Bradley said. 'Right now, how we’re doing it is Geno is going with the first and second down, Telvin on third down.'
Bradley's description of the split of reps between Hayes and Smith might not last if the first-year speedster continues to impress. After all, training camp isn't the first time this offseason Smith has turned some heads.
He was a standout during minicamp, 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.
Bradley's defense is a containment system, one that relies on speed at the second third and levels. Linebackers and defensive backs must be agile and opportunistic to form swarming coverage shells that never give receivers any space.
An active and undersized 'backer like Smith is the perfect fit for this defense. If he continues to wow his coaches with big plays, Smith could leaves Hayes surplus to requirements.