JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It has been a challenging month for the Jaguars defensive line unit.
Since training camp began, the line has been decimated by suspension, players opting out or retiring and injuries.
They have lost seven players in that unit alone. Another, Yannick Ngakoue, has yet to sign his franchise tender. That means the players that are still on the Jaguars roster are going to have to step up.
Expectations are already high for second-year player Josh Allen, but one name fans may not be expecting to have a big role for the Jaguars this year is Dawuane Smoot.
The defensive end had six sacks for the team last season. With so many personnel losses across the defensive front, Jacksonville is going to need a career season from Smoot again this year.
“My dad raised me, my dad raised bird dogs when I was a kid. And his deal was if he shot a shotgun and that dog shied away, that dog wasn’t a bird dog anymore,” said Jaguars defensive line coach Jason Rebrovich.
“So you can sit there and say these are the guys that we got or these are the people that we have and you shoot those shotguns off and you say, ‘Let’s go, let’s blast and let’s get out there and play with whatever which ones we’ve got out there.’”
Smoot said that he’s ready to do whatever he can this season to help the team improve. He expects his usage to increase.
“My goal is just to do whatever I can with the reps I have. I know I had like 38% percent of the snaps last year and I’m hoping to get more going into my fourth year,” he said. “But all I can really do is just not really focus on that. I know after this year I’m supposed to be up for a contract and stuff like that, but I don’t want to get distracted by that right now. I’m just trying to focus on being able to just go out there and make plays.”
Smoot took his first big jump last season after not getting a sack during his first two years in the league. He had 19 tackles as a rookie playing behind All-Pro end Calais Campbell. In 2018, Smoot regressed and endured a rough preseason. He was inactive for the first eight games of the season and had just four tackles.
The breakthrough came in 2019 when Smooth had all six of his career sacks and played in all 16 games. How will he perform with less experience around him and what should be an increased role?
“Right now, I definitely thought that I was going to be in a different place of course. I mean everybody coming in after college just thinks they’re just going to keep rolling and getting 8.0, 9.0., 10.0 sacks and go crazy, be like a Josh Allen,” Smoot said.
“I’m definitely comfortable I would say within my role like leadership wise and being able to help out all the guys but I’m definitely not comfortable with any of my stats or like what I’m able to do on the field. I’m trying to get more. I’m trying to go for more. I’m trying to get double digits and do whatever I can for the team and put some W’s on the board. That’s my goal at the end of the day.”