The Jacksonville Jaguars got a much needed surprise when they returned to the practice field on Monday following their bye week.
Star linebacker and defensive captain Daryl Smith returned to practice in a limited fashion for the first time since suffering a groin injury in practice in the preseason, but will Smith be healthy enough to step on the field for the first time this season this Sunday when the Jaguars take on the Oakland Raiders?
The Jaguars seem cautiously optimistic about Smith’s return this weekend, but there is no doubt they need him on the field.
Through their first five games without Smith on the field, the Jaguars are currently ranked 29th in the NFL in yards allowed per game. Their drop off from where they were ranked last year cannot totally be contributed to Smith’s absence, but his presence on the field can only help.
Smith is truly one of the best linebackers in the league against both the run and pass. Last season he was the Jaguars second leading tackler, but he was also the team leader in tackles for loss which should help a defense that is struggling to make big plays.
The Jaguars will continue to increase Smith’s practice workload this week in hopes of getting him on the field on Sunday.
Smith also has incentive to get back on the field as soon as possible as he is scheduled to be a free agent this offseason. A healthy Smith playing at the level he is capable will not only help improve the Jaguars defense, but will help Smith sign a big contract this offseason.