Former Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith was out at the practice field on Wednesday, but this time it was as a player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Smith was a long time starter with the Jaguars, originally drafted by the team in the second round of the 2004 NFL Draft, he spent the first nine seasons of his career in Jacksonville. He worked himself up to be a fan favorite and was one of the better 4-3 outside linebackers in the NFL. After dealing with an injury in 2012 that saw him miss the majority of the season, general manager Dave Caldwell let Smith walk in free agency, opting to completely rebuild the roster and go younger.
Many will argue that was the first mistake Caldwell made as general manager, and I'd tend to agree, it still made sense for both sides to part ways. Smith continued his career starting, and excelling, for the Baltimore Ravens for the next three seasons and then signed with the Buccaneers this past offseason.
Smith didn't practice on Wednesday, but he couldn't help but notice the changes that have happened to the Jaguars since he left.
"It's definitely a young team that has a lot of potential and a lot of guys that can play ball," Smith told Mike Kaye of First Coast News. "They've just been steadily building up, building up, building up."
The Jaguars are seemingly at that threshold where they're still a "young" team, but the majority of that youth now has NFL experience under their belt and should be taking that next step and hitting their stride. You can already see it on the offensive side of the ball with players like Blake Bortles, Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson. Those young offensive playmakers did not go unnoticed to Smith on the sideline.
"They've got playmakers," Smith told Kaye. "You look around in the backfield, tight end position, wide receivers, they got guys that can make plays."
That's a drastic change from what Smith remembers in his final few seasons with the Jaguars, who had the likes of Blaine Gabbert, Jordan Shipley, Justin Blackmon etc. in his final season with the team that saw the Jaguars finish with the worst record in franchise history.
Boy, what a difference a competent general manager makes.