The Jacksonville Jaguars invested significant resources in their linebacker group this offseason. They first signed Foyesade Oluokun in free agency and later used a couple of draft picks on Devin Lloyd and Chad Muma. But in spite of the upgrades the Jags made to the unit, they earned a low spot in a recent ranking by Pro Football Focus.
Sam Monson of PFF recently ranked the top linebackers in the NFL and organized them in tiers. Fred Warner (San Francisco 49ers) earned the top spot and Darius Leonard (Indianapolis Colts) finished second. Demario Davis (New Orleans Saints) popped up at No. 3 and Erick Kendricks (Minnesota Vikings) landed at No. 4.
On the other hand, Oluokun was the only Jaguars linebacker that made the ranking and he was placed in Tier 8, “the roller coaster ride”. Monson acknowledges that the former Atlanta Falcon has “outstanding physical traits” but points out that his numbers don’t look that great once you dig deeper.
"The Jaguars replaced Jack with Oluokun, who also has outstanding physical traits. Those traits have allowed him to make a lot of tackles, but tackles are not always good plays for linebackers if they come after a big gain on the ground or because they were out of position in coverage. Oluokun is coming off a PFF run-defense grade of 44.0 and a coverage grade of 54.4. He allowed 81.0 percent of passes thrown his way to be caught and missed 17 tackles in all."
The Jaguars opted not to re-sign Damien Wilson even though he made plays towards the end of the 2021 campaign. They also released Myles Jack, who went to join the Pittsburgh Steelers. With both of them gone, Oluokun and most likely Devin Lloyd will be the starters in Week 1 of the 2022 season.
The Jaguars will get better play from their linebackers in 2022.
Devin Lloyd could be a darkhorse candidate for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award but no first-year linebacker made Monson’s ranking and that makes sense. Lloyd, along with Chad Muma and Quay Walker (Green Bay Packers) are unproven commodities in the NFL and despite the fact that they all were difference-makers at the collegiate level, it’s unknown if they’ll be able to perform at the same level in the pros.
Having said that, the Jaguars should get more productions from their off-linebackers. Myles Jack had been a staple of Jacksonville’s defense for many years but he was coming off a down year in which he didn’t make any big plays. Similarly, Wilson played well in 2021 but Oluokun had more takeaways and should be an upgrade in the middle. The Jags also fortified their defensive front, so both Oluokun and Lloyd should be able to make plays and clog running lanes.
The Jaguars’ linebacker corps is a unit in transition and while it might take them a bit to gel, they should make more plays and take some pressure off the offense’s shoulders this upcoming season.