By John Turney
Going to the Pro Bowl may not be on Telvin Smith's
mind these days, dark days after dealing with the loss of is brother, 25-year-old Brian Moore, who was shot and killed in their hometown of Valdosta, Georgia, on November. 13, 2016. Smith is using football to move on, what he calls "football moving on".
However, the bright side is he's a new father, with his girlfriend giving birth to a son last week.
Also on the bright side is Smith is having a Pro Bowl season, though it may be tough for him to get that recognition due to rushbacker-type linebackers in the AFC like Von Miller
(NFL-leading 12.5 sacks) and Khalil Mack
, both of which are having superb seasons.
Other possible Pro Bowlers are Lorenzo Alexander
of Buffalo (10 sacks), Dee Ford
, another DE/OLB hybrid who has 10 sacks, and Terrell Suggs
to name a few.
With these sackers in the mix, it makes it easy to overlook a base linebacker who is good at pass coverage, and makes plays in the backfield, but not the sacks. Smith's plays in the backfield are the type that often go for a one- or two-yard loss, but are vital because they put opposing offenses behind on their down and distances.
Since 2014 Smith has 33.5 run/pass stuffs (tackles on run and pass plays behind the line of scrimmage) and this year he leads the NFL in that category with 12.5 in 11 games. He also leads all AFC outside linebackers in tackles with 88.
He is, in a sense a throwback to players like Seth Joyner, Darryl Talley and others who were all-around linebackers who could blitz, but were in traditional roles, dropping into zones or covering running backs and filling their gaps in the run game.
Smith is a becoming a smaller version of Derrick Brooks, another Florida State alum. While at FSU Smith totaled 214 tackles (139 solo) with seven sacks, 29 tackles for loss, 4 FR, 2 FF, 10 passes defensed and four INTs, three returned for TDs.
As a senior he started all 14 games and team-high 90 tackles (61 solo), three picks, 9.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, 2 FR and four passes defensed and had recorded three INTs and tied the school single-season record with three returned for TDs. For his efforts he was a First-team All-ACC selection by the league’s coaches, ESPN.com and Sporting News.
We will see what the next few weeks brings, but with 5 games to go he has a shot at setting a linebacker record for run/pass stuffs, which is 18.5, held by Ed McDaniel (1995) and Mark Barron (2015). Since 1982 no one except J.J. Watt has ever had more run/pass stuffs in a single season than McDaniel and Barron.
If he does get even close we hope the players, coaches and even fans remember him in the Pro Bowl voting, it's something he likely deserved last year as well.