In the final season of his four-year rookie-scaled contract, weak-side linebacker Telvin Smith is motivated to prove his worth.
But he’d rather show it on the field than voice a desire for a new deal.
So far, Smith hasn’t had a problem raising his level of play.
Going into this Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams at EverBank Field, he has been one of the Jaguars’ most reliable run stoppers.
In four of the past five games, Smith has either led or tied for the team lead in tackles.
Besides his 10 tackles, which included two made behind the line of scrimmage, this past Sunday against Pittsburgh, he also showed off his pass-coverage skills.
While safety Barry Church returned one of the Jaguars’ franchise-record five interceptions 51 yards for a touchdown, Smith returned another 28 yards for a touchdown in their 30-9 rout at Heinz Field.
Smith’s overall performance was good enough to earn the AFC Defensive Player of Week award that was announced on Wednesday by the league.
“He has a great feel,” said Todd Wash, Jaguars defensive coordinator. “He spends a lot of time on the pass concepts, understanding splits and the tempo so he can get to his drops. You have to really give Telvin credit for studying the game. Each and every year he’s been here, he s matured in that aspect of being a pro. He’s done that and put himself in position to make plays.”
Now it’s possible that if Smith continues to make a dynamic presence for the remainder of the season, a potential bigger financial award could be ahead than the $1.7 million he is scheduled to earn this season.
Although Smith was eligible for a contract extension this past offseason, he didn’t get one.
“That’s why you get paid by what you’ve done and the numbers that you’ve put up,’’ Smith said Thursday. “When it comes to stuff like what are you owed or you this or that, I let it (play) speak for itself. Because year-in and year-out, game in and game out, I come out and perform. If that’s not what it is about, then I don’t know.’’
When asked if he thinks his value has increased each week because of his performances, Smith said he doesn’t worry about it.
“When you know your value as a player, you don’t have to worry about it you just go out and play,” Smith said. “If I have a bad game, we won against the Texans and I didn’t have too many plays. I felt like that was one of my best games that started the whole season off right. I don’t dictate my value as the games go by because if you see how I affect the games it should be determined off that.”
Smith, who a fifth-round pick by the Jaguars in the 2014 NFL Draft, is second on the team with 40 tackles, which is two behind team leader and starting strong-side linebacker, Myles Jack.
Still, like a boxer trying to hype the main event, Smith stood in front of locker stall earlier this week and announced boldly that pound-for-pound he thinks he is the best linebacker in the NFL.
“When I say that, you see it in the run I affect the game in the pass I affect the game,” said Smith, who is considered to be undersized for a linebacker at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds. “You look at our blitzes I’m effecting pressures and stuff like that. I consider myself all-around, you can put me on a receiver , tight ends , quarterbacks, whatever you want to do. I don’t necessarily say I got to be a great run stopper or I’m a great pass defender. I say I’m a great linebacker.”
He will get another chance to show it against the high-scoring Rams’ offense led by quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley. The Rams are averaging 30 points a game, which ranks second in the league behind Kansas City’s 32.6 average.
The Jaguars’ defense, however, lead the NFL in takeaways (15) and rank second in forced fumbles (6).
“We know coming into games, we think one of us is going to get into the end zone to score,” Jack said.