The Jacksonville Jaguars are asking a rookie linebacker to replace a former Pro Bowl veteran.
Quincy Williams is being asked to do something you did few players can do in the NFL. The rookie from Murray State, who is the Jacksonville Jaguars third-round pick in April, has the tall task of replacing Telvin Smith on the weak side at linebacker. The 5-foot-11, 240-pound rookie has looked good during OTAs and minicamp. But when the pads go on during training camp in a couple of weeks, the hitting begins and the speed of the NFL becomes apparent.
The player who wasn’t considered an NFL draft pick by many teams prior to April hopes to beat the odds in proving everybody wrong, along with giving the Jaguars solid play at a position there is a huge question mark on defense.
For these reasons alone, Williams is the biggest wildcard on defense the Jaguars have this upcoming season.
This is also an opportunity for Williams, who is the older brother of Quinnen Williams who was the third pick in the draft for the New York Jets, to prove that a small-school player can be just as effective as those “big name” stars who garner all the attention.
The Jaguars return a majority of their defense intact from 2017 and 2018. Malik Jackson, Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church were key cogs in this defense at the beginning of 2018 who are no longer on the roster. Smith’s announcement that he would not play this season came as a shock, but the Jaguars did enough through free agency and the draft to bring in depth to compete and strengthen the unit’s core.
The focal point now falls to Williams, who team brass raved about once they made the selection of him with the 98th pick in the Draft. Other teams expressed their disappointment that he was not available in the fourth round, because there’s a good likelihood he will have been gone before the Jaguars had their next selection in Round 5.
While a lot of the attention has been written this off-season has been about the Jaguars getting the “steal” of the draft in Josh Allen, who fell to them with the seventh pick in the first round, Williams could equally be as surprising, with a short compact frame and speed to move around in coverage.
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This team needs Williams to replace a former Pro Bowl player who led the team in tackles last year with 134, a player who gave this defense energy as a vocal leader on and off the field.
This is the second season of the Jaguars linebacking corps has undergone a drastic change. Prior to last season, middle linebacker Paul Posluszny announced his retirement, leaving a huge hole in the middle of the defense. He was one of the most respected players on the field and in the locker room – someone that Smith credited with helping to shape him both as a man and a player in the NFL. Now that kind of development and leadership rests upon Myles Jack, who has already said he’s willing to take on that role as the vocal quarterback of the entire defense.
That’s one of the storylines we all will follow heading up to the preseason and the start of the 2019 regular season.
The Jaguars are gambling that Williams picks up defensive coordinator Todd Wash’s system quickly, And is able to adapt to playing against opponents who are bigger stronger and faster. If he does that, the pick that shocked many this offseason won’t seem like such a gamble after all.