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Jaguars rookie Williams has huge opportunity with Smith gone

By MARK LONGMay 10, 2019

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Quincy Williams forgot to take his watch off before his first workout with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Friday.

He looked down and noticed it wrapped around his wrist following the first pseudo practice of a three-day rookie minicamp. There was no need to check it, though.

Williams knew it was time for him to prove the Jaguars made the right call by selecting him in the third round of the NFL draft last month. The pick was widely panned as a reach as many questioned why Jacksonville would take a 5-foot-10 linebacker from Murray State with the 98th overall selection.

Now, though, Williams might be as important to the team as first-round pick Josh Allen or second-rounder Jawaan Taylor.

With veteran Telvin Smith stepping away from football to “get my world in order,” Williams has a chance to make an immediate impact. Smith made the shocking announcement Thursday, raising speculation about his health, his family and his future with the franchise.

His departure creates a huge hole in Jacksonville’s vaunted defense, one Williams hopes to fill.

“I’m a rookie coming in, the spot’s open and I’m battling for it,” Williams said. “I’ll keep him in my prayers, man, but like all the coaches say, ‘Next man up.’ That’s for real.”

Smith had been skipping voluntary workouts and hadn’t returned calls from coaches or team officials. General manager Dave Caldwell seemed to sense something was amiss with the guy who led the team in tackles the last two seasons, saying “we’ll see” during the NFL draft when asked whether he expected Smith to be on the roster this fall.

Not only did Caldwell and personnel chief Tom Coughlin draft Williams, they also signed former Green Bay starter Jake Ryan in free agency, claimed James Onwualu off waivers from San Francisco and then signed veterans D.J. Alexander, Najee Goode and Ramik Wilson. All those moves came before Smith’s revelation on Instagram.

“I really believe in my heart that Telvin knows that we’re here to support him in any which way,” coach Doug Marrone said Friday. “Not just myself, the coaches, the organization, his teammates, and I’m sure he’s aware of that. All we can do is just make sure we pray and he knows that if he needs some support, obviously we’re here for him. That’s No. 1.

“No. 2, as a coach, you’re prepared for things. You really are. You got to be ready for everything: injuries and retirements or stepping away, whatever it may be. We’ve done a good job.”

A fifth-round draft pick from Florida State in 2014, Smith has 586 total tackles, nine interceptions, 7½ sacks and five forced fumbles in five seasons.

He signed a four-year, $45 million extension in October 2017 that included $20 million guaranteed. He restructured that deal in March 2018, turning an $8 million roster bonus into a signing bonus, which allowed the team to create extra cap space last season.

He is due to make $9.75 million in 2019, but would receive nothing if he stays away.

“Telvin’s a strong man and he feels like a lot of guys on this team that can handle their situations,” Marrone said. “We just want to make sure that everyone knows that we’re there to support them and if they reach out — and hopefully each player does, not just Telvin — that they don’t have to do anything alone. We’re here for them.”

Williams might have the most to gain from Smith’s absence.

The older brother of former Alabama star and current New York Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams hopes to open as many eyes over the next few months as he did on the second night of the draft.

“My confidence is going up,” Quincy Williams said. “There were talks about being a late draft pick, going undrafted. But I believed in myself, went on a couple of visits and heard some things. It was just a surprise I ended up with the Jaguars. But it’s a good fit for me.”

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