Which player will replace Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith for the 2019 season?
Smith, the Jaguars weakside linebacker, is taking a leave of absence for the 2019 season. He leaves a gaping hole in the defense.
The Jaguars have 10 linebackers listed on their current roster. Is one of them a possibility to start in place of Smith? Do the Jaguars, with limited cap space and contracts to extend, need to look to other teams to find a replacement? OTAs, mandatory minicamp, and training camp will provide the answer. It’s time to take a look at our currently signed linebackers.
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An objective look at the team’s current 10 linebackers indicates that there are only 4-6 possible starters and backup candidates in the group. In fact, one, Christian Kuntz, is a long snapper. Smith may be a very difficult guy to replace. Let’s look at what we have right now.
Two starters at linebacker return from 2018. Jaguars.com looked at our starters prior to the draft. Myles Jack moved to middle linebacker and had a good season. He made 107 tackles, had 2.5 sacks and one interception, and ran back the interception for a touchdown. Jack is looking to having a better season in 2019 with a year playing that position under his belt.
Leon Jacobs, a rookie last season, was a star of training camp prior to the 2018 season. He started as the strongside linebacker but was not on the field during obvious passing downs. He showed decent coverage skills and could earn more playing time in 2019. He ended last season on the injured reserve list.
Nick DeLuca was promoted from the Jaguars practice squad and played strongside linebacker at the end of the season.
Free agent Jake Ryan from Green Bay was signed during the offseason. Ryan started 27 games in three seasons. He tore his ACL in 2018. He is good against the run and could play middle linebacker with Jack moved to the outside.
Rookie Quincy Williams is another potential starter. He has speed and a great work ethic. Can he make the transition from small-school college to the NFL with ease?
A dark horse could be Connor Strachan. As reported by draftanalyst.com, Strachan is an underrated prospect who is physical, tough and has good instincts. He is projected as a backup or special teams player.
One possible scenario frequently discussed is Jack moves to weakside linebacker, Jacobs remains strong side backer, and Ryan becomes the middle linebacker. My favorite starting group would be Jack at middle linebacker with Ryan as a backup, Jacobs plays weakside linebacker with Williams as a backup and designated pass rusher, and DeLuca is strongside linebacker with Strachan as a backup.
This should be an interesting battle in training camp.