The Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker corps must incorporate new faces in 2018. Tevin Smith remains at the weak side linebacker (WILL) and he is one of the very best. However the other two positions have different starters than in 2017.
The linebacker group for the Jacksonville Jaguars looks different this season. Myles Jack is transitioning for a move from strong side linebacker(SAM) to middle linebacker(MIKE). Blair Brown learns a totally new position at SAM. There is always a learning curve when changes occur. It remains to be seen how quickly this group comes together as a unit.
Telvin Smith remains at the WILL linebacker position. Smith is an All Pro caliber player and one of the very best in the NFL. He is a great help to ease the transition for the new starters.
The Jaguars drafted Jack at pick #36 in 2016. Projected as a high first round draft choice, he fell to the second round due concerns about his injury. To date he is a steal. To begin, last season Jack played at the MIKE linebacker but struggled a bit. He returned to the SAM position but played the middle linebacker on passing downs. Jack has more responsibility this year as the full time middle linebacker and also needs to call the defensive plays. It takes time to adjust to the new role. The good news is he is multi-talented, hard working and can cover receivers as well as stop the run.
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Brown was drafted in the fifth round in 2017. He lacked the size to be chosen in an earlier round but worked hard and earned a spot on the Jaguars roster. Brown substituted last season for injured players and played on special teams. He is slated to be a starter in 2018. However his challenge is learning a new position. The strong side linebacker keys are different from the weak side keys. Also Brown will be down on the line instead of attacking. At the end of last week he told the media, “Today it felt normal-I felt great today. I just have to keep building on what I did today.”
There are bumps along the way when changes are made. However the Jaguars have a powerful defensive front and an all-world secondary. Also Telvin Smith is a great player as the other linebacker. Many mistakes can be overcome by the other team members as Brown and Jack adjust to new roles. Both players have been at voluntary OTAs and have time to become comfortable in their new roles. Consistency is a key. In fact, Mike DiRocco of ESPN reported that coordinator Todd Walsh has made consistence a focus during OTAs and it will be the biggest issue in 2018.
The only other concern is injury. For example, there is a lack of depth at linebacker at this time. The Jaguars haven’t many replacements ready to step in immediately. Hopefully this will be addressed during training camp and the preseason.