JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The losses have become unbearable for linebacker Telvin Smith.
There have been 37 in his three-year career with the Jacksonville Jaguars and that’s more than twice the number of games he lost in high school and college combined. Though the season is nearly four months away, Smith already feels a level of desperation to turn things around.
Unfortunately, he’s not sensing enough progress this spring. That’s what he told the defense on Tuesday following the Jaguars’ fourth organized team activity on the practice fields outside EverBank Field.
“With the players that we have I just think as a team we should be further than we are,” Smith said. “As players, we’ve got to do our part in the sense of it’s not scheme, none of that. It’s what do we want? What’s our mentality going to be?
“… The mindset of this team, things that we should be using to beat opponents are still beating us.”
Smith said he didn’t want to get into specifics, but there’s a long list of things:
The Jaguars have the worst turnover margin in the NFL (minus-32) over the past three seasons. They’ve forced the fewest total turnovers (51) and intercepted the fewest passes (22) of any team in the league in that span.
The offense ranks 28th in yards per game, 27th in rushing, 22nd in passing, and 31st in third-down conversions from 2014-16. The Jaguars also rank 27th in scoring.
Quarterback Blake Bortles has committed the most turnovers of any quarterback in the NFL and thrown the second-most interceptions over the past three seasons.
It’s easy to see why the Jaguars won just three games in Smith’s rookie season, five in 2015, and three last season.
That’s why coach Gus Bradley was fired last December, Tom Coughlin brought in as executive vice president of football operations, and Doug Marrone hired as the franchise’s fourth full-time head coach. Coughlin and Marrone have tried to instill a much-needed shot of discipline into the franchise but Smith isn’t seeing the kind of progress he hoped.
He believes teams can set a standard and tone in OTAs even though the players aren’t wearing full pads and hitting.
“I understand that right now we’re making the team,” Smith said. “It’s not going to be when we go into training camp and we say, ‘Okay, now let’s turn it on.’ We are going to decide where this team goes and the mentality there of this team right now.”
The Jaguars have won just 11 games in Smith’s three seasons, and their best record was 5-11. Florida State went 45-10 with a national championship in Smith’s four seasons in Tallahassee. He went 36-4 and won a state title in three seasons at Lowndes (Georgia) County High School.
That’s what he’s used to, and he’s struggled with the mounting losses. He’s not the only one. Second-year cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who was teammates with Smith at FSU, had trouble dealing with it last season and was in tears after the Jaguars’ 26-19 loss at Detroit last November.
The atmosphere around the team has to change, Smith said, and bringing in players like former Arizona defensive end Calais Campbell helps.
“[There is] still a culture here that has to be broken before one can be created,” Smith said. “… I say as a team we are wanting to play well and that’s something that I think every team is doing. That’s nothing, but that’s what we’re doing well.
“There’s guys that’s accepting the system and wanting to be a part of it and wanting to grow in it, but again, every team is doing that — or at least the great ones are, so that’s not enough.”