Jaguars Training Camp 2019: Defining the linebacker unit

The Jacksonville Jaguars may have numbers when it comes to their linebacker unit, but determining who starts for this team is still to be determined.

If you read what national football analysts have to say about the Jacksonville Jaguars, the majority of them tell you that the teams biggest issue heading in the training camp is the wide receiver position. I’m here to tell you that’s not the case.

While there is not a true proven No. 1 pass catcher on this team, there is something to be said for the numbers that are in the wide receiver room each day. There is only a handful for of NFL teams that is that a true No. 1 wideout.

Looking closer at the Jaguars roster and having witnessed practice the first two days of training camp, I can tell you as well that the team still has plenty of questions that need to be answered with the linebacker unit.

The Jaguars announced on Wednesday that Telvin Smith had been placed on the reserved/retired list. His loss for the 2019 season creates a huge hole on the weak side of the defense. Jacksonville was wise to draft Quincy Williams in the third round in April, but the rookie still has plenty to prove. There are other issues the coaching staff faces as well.

Head coach Doug Marone announced on Thursday that middle linebacker Jake Ryan suffered a setback in his rehabilitation for an ACL tear. Marrone was adamant about the fact it will not require surgery, but the former Green Bay Packer player has been placed on the PUP list and will return to practice once he is cleared to play. Ryan, who signed a two-year deal this off-season free agency, figures to be in the mix for a starting spot in the middle, potentially moving Myles Jack to the strong side.

Jack is the only linebacker we know we can count on right now. What happens to the other two starting positions and who fills the depths requirement for this roster? It’s muddled.

One player that we have not talked about a lot this off-season, is second-year starter, Leon Jacobs. The seventh-round pick from 2018 won the starting spot last year in training camp but suffered an injury where he finished his rookie campaign on the injured reserve list.

He comes back this season and is in the mix to start, but is not guaranteed a starring role.

The team also added Ramik Wilson and Najee Goode in free agency. By sheer numbers, the Jaguars look to have a better core from last season but are definitely not the same in terms of production and output from only 12 months ago. Somebody has to replace the 130-plus tackles Smith gave in 2018. Jack said he wants to be the one to do that, but he’s going to need help.

The coaching staff has to hope that Ryan is not out of action for long, and Jacobs can return with the same kind of production he showed in camp last season. Also if Williams is not able to pick up the defense of scheme immediately, who fills that role on the weak side?

Linebackers coach Mark Collins has his hands full when attempting to shuffle the deck and find the right combination that will give the middle of this defense the same kind of intensity that it did in 2017.

This is a group that very much remains a work in progress.