The Jacksonville Jaguars will still have issues at linebacker unless they solve the mystery in the middle.
Last season, Myles Jack played out of position, which was severely exposed the majority of the time. The team spent a third-round draft pick on Quincy Williams, but he remains a project. He was expected to come in and take over for Telvin Smith who retired prior to the season. He still needs time to develop and learn the system and adjust to playing against players who are bigger, stronger and faster in space.
Injuries have decimated the unit as a whole, and defensive coordinator Todd Wash was left trying to fix a leaking faucet that continually needed repairs. It also did not help that defensive tackle Marcell Dareus was injured for the majority of the season with a core muscle injury.
I am off for the team making Simmons the ninth pick in the NFL draft provided he is available. That said, he is not a middle linebacker. The Jaguars would still need to find somebody to fill that role, which may be solved by placing Donald Payne back in the middle.
Payne was a pleasant surprise the final five games of the season replacing Jack who was placed on injured reserve.
In those five games, Payne recorded 61 tackles which placed him amongst the top five on the team. He provided an instant dose of adrenaline and is a restricted free agent this off-season. I cannot see the Jaguars letting him leave the city.s
Not bad for somebody they picked up as a street free agent.
Since linebacker is one of the key positions the team must address this off-season, the front office must determine how that is done. Whether it is in free agency or via the draft, this team cannot come away without at least one or two players to plug in the mix.
Wash told the media in his final presser of 2019 that he spoke with Jack about this past season and what his role will be moving forward. He didn’t shed much light on the conversation, but one can speculate there will be a change in 2020 where the fifth-year player will move back outside, most likely on the strong side.
That allows Simmons, if drafted, to play the weak side and help with run defense. Payne would remain in the middle to help in run coverage, which was abysmal last year.