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Updated: September 4th, 2012 11:57am
Scouting Report: Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith is a hidden gem

Scouting Report: Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith is a hidden gem

by Sam Monson
Special to 1500ESPN.com
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The Minnesota Vikings open the regular season against Jacksonville on Sunday at the Metrodome. Sam Monson of ProFootballFocus.com, which breaks down tape from every NFL game, takes an inside look at the Jaguars in his weekly scouting report:

Scheme

On offense, Jacksonville's approach is dictated largely by its quarterback situation. Last season, QB Blaine Gabbert was as bad as it gets, and consequently, the team ran early and often, trying to keep the ball out of his hands as much as possible. This season, they will likely run heavily, too, but they're trying to open it up a little and give Gabbert something to work with in the passing game.

Up front, like most teams, they run a mixture of zone- and man-blocking schemes, but their bread and butter is the power running game inside, where they will usually line up with multiple tight ends or a fullback rather than spreading teams out with wide receivers.

On defense, the Jaguars run a pretty vanilla 4-3 scheme with a lot of zone coverage on the back end, though S Dawan Landry is more comfortable coming forward than he is in coverage. Landry is quick to come down and can often give the illusion of a single-high look from Jacksonville.

Key players

Gabbert was drafted to be the new face of the franchise and a legitimate quarterback that could take the team places. Things were ugly for him as a rookie, and the Jaguars were held back badly because of it. He needs to show significant improvement as a sophomore player for the team to have any hope of being competitive, because the running game can't do it all without some air support.

HB Maurice Jones-Drew spent the offseason trying to be better compensated for being the entire Jaguars offense for the past few seasons. He is one of the best runners in the league but is also a great weapon out of the backfield as a screen receiver and can pick up the blitz like few backs in the NFL. The team needs him to be at his best for them to have success and he usually delivers despite everybody knowing he's getting the ball. If and when he's on the field, the Vikings need to shut him down first and foremost and then move on to other weapons.

The best anonymous player in football may be Jaguars OLB Daryl Smith. He might just be the best 4-3 outside linebacker in the NFL -- and has been for a few years -- yet for some reason gets zero recognition from anybody. Smith has been battling with an injury in the preseason but is back practicing with the team and should be good to go on Sunday. He's the best player on a defense that is far from weak. The Vikings offense will have a tough test in the opening game, and they'll have to account for Smith, especially when they throw the ball.

PFF stats

• Last season, Jones-Drew led the NFL with 954 rushing yards after first contact.
• Gabbert's PFF grade of -49.9 was the worst grade we've given to a passer in four seasons of grading.
• Smith led all 4-3 OLBs last season with 63 defensive stops (a tackle that constitutes an offensive failure).
• The Jaguars defense missed 84 tackles in total last season, a very respectable mark.
• LT Eugene Monroe allowed nine sacks last season, but only 15 additional hits and pressures.

Sam Monson is an analyst for ProFootballFocus.com.
Email Sam | @PFF
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