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In fantasy football, there are some new trends that I enjoy writing about: dynasty leagues, and individual defensive player leagues.  This weekly column will combine two of those by discussing two young IDPs.  I will give my scouting thoughts telvinon how they played a particular week.  Today I will be discussing the two young Jacksonville linebackers James Thomas and Telvin Smith.

LB-James Thomas, JAX- I am breaking my usual rookie to three years in the NFL clause with Thomas, because he did not play a snap in the NFL during his rookie season.  In fact prior to this season, the fourth year linebacker accumulated statistics in 13 out of 48 possible games.  The injury to stalwart Paul Posluszny opened up the door for this defensive outburst. He is a versatile linebacker who plays on the outside on normal down and distance, but lines up as an inside backer on passing downs.  Thomas does a good job reading the quarterback’s eyes to get an idea of where he is going with the ball on passing downs and breaks quickly on the ball with good lateral agility.  He steps up to attack the blocker on running plays, but doesn’t always show the physicality in shedding blockers. 

Thomas launches himself sometimes at the ball carrier which causes him to get thrown off and miss the tackle.  The backer needs to do a better job of seeing what he is hitting.  A few times he rushed the passer, and while he did not come up with the sack, Thomas disrupted the passing lane with his big mitts.  Those hands came into play when the linebacker tipped the ball and batted it into his hands.  This set up the Jaguars on the Bengals seven yard line in the middle of the fourth quarter.  The Jacksonville coaching staff believed in him and is giving him the chance to play a three down role, so if you need LB3 help, there are worse options.  I’m not sold on his long-term value though with Telvin Smith as the more athletic option.

LB-Telvin Smith, JAX- The rookie linebacker is only hindered by his inexperience and smaller stature, because he has the quickness, anticipation, and vision to move all around the field.  He has mostly been used on passing downs, but saw a lot more three down work in this game against the Bengals.  His physicality is a bit in question, an example of that was when Cedric Peerman stiff-armed him knocking him to the ground when the backer tried to tackle low.  Smith tends to over pursue and counts on his quickness to get him back in the play, which is the same thing that hinders Steelers Ryan Shazier.  The problem with Smith is that he has less power to work with than Shazier, even though they both are great wrap up tacklers

Smith needs to work on stepping into blockers and uses his quickness to disengage from them.  This was very evident during running players and when he attempted to rush the passer.  Perhaps the coaching staff can use defensive schemes to keep the rookie backer unblocked and let him flow unabated to the play.   If this can be done, I think Smith has the speed and athletic ability to become a LB2 once he secures a fulltime role in the defense.  Keep in mind, that might not happen this year, but it is quite likely.



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