sports 3 days ago

Jaguars Position Preview: New roles for Jack, Posluszny at linebacker

The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville — Ryan O'Halloran The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville

July 17--Myles has moved to the Mike.

Poz is now the Sam, which was previously called the Otto.

And Telvin remains the Will.

Get all that?

The names starting at linebacker for the Jaguars entering training camp are the same as at the end of last year: Paul Posluszny, Myles Jack and Telvin Smith. But only Smith (weak-side or Will) remains at the same spot after the Jaguars flipped Posluszny and Jack.

Jack is now the all-important middle linebacker (Mike), responsible for receiving the play call from defensive coordinator Todd Wash and relaying it to his 10 teammates. Posluszny is the strong-side backer (Sam), ticketed for less playing time.

How Jack and Posluszny make their respective transitions will be key subplots when training camp opens July 26.

The Jaguars overhauled their linebacker depth during the off-season, signing free agents Audie Cole (Minnesota) and Josh McNary (Indianapolis) and drafting Blair Brown (Ohio) in the fifth round. The aim was two-fold -- improve the special teams immediately with Cole and McNary and potentially getting Brown ready for a big role next year. Smith and Posluszny are free agents next March.

The adding of Cole (strong-side), McNary (strong-side) and Brown (weak-side) has jeopardized Hayes Pullard's roster status. Pullard was the back-up middle linebacker last year, but if something happens to Jack this year, the Jaguars could return Posluszny inside.

Long shots to make the roster are undrafted free agents Justin Horton and P.J. Davis.

In general manager Dave Caldwell's first four years, the Jaguars have kept six linebackers on the initial 53-man roster. Don't expect that to change.

Jack played only 239 snaps last year, learning the Mike spot before shifting to the Sam so he could get him on the field. He missed only two tackles, but his impact was minimal. Jack is now in the spotlight.

Jack will certainly add athleticism to the every-down defensive mix, but there will also be growing pains.

"I think from OTA [No.] 1 to OTA [No.] 10, he made great strides in recognition and pre- and post-snap communications," said new linebackers coach Mark Collins, who was previously on the New York Jets' staff. "But he's still got a long way to go."

If Jack is a hit at middle linebacker, it will free Wash up to do different things with his coverage, knowing Jack can handle himself against tight ends. Jack and Smith could form a solid 1-1A pair on passing downs.

If Caldwell still had final say on personnel, chances are Smith would be entering camp armed with a contract extension in the range of Miami's Kiko Alonso ($7.227 million average), Dallas' Sean Lee ($7 million average) or Cincinnati's Vontaze Burfict ($6.14 million average). But the new boss, Tom Coughlin, might have long ago decided to let Smith play out his deal.

Smith's $1,849,763 salary cap number is 23rd on the Jaguars.

The key for Smith to cashing in: Better in coverage and fewer missed tackles. He led the Jaguars with 26 missed tackles last year and opponents were 14-of-28 passing for 228 yards and two touchdowns against him in man coverage. Smith may have turned a corner late in the year, though, intercepting two passes in the last three games.

"Telvin is a guy that is working on becoming a complete player," Collins said. "He obviously can run. He's very competitive. He loves the game. He's a finisher. ... A joy to coach."

Smith played 1,048 snaps last year (97.4 percent) and was third on the Jaguars with 118 tackles. Posluszny played 1,057 snaps (98.2 percent) and was first with 133 tackles. Since signing days after the 2011 lockout ended , Posluszny has led the team in tackles five times; the only time he didn't was 2014, when a torn chest muscle limited him to seven games.

But now comes what Posluszny has called the biggest challenge of his career, moving from middle linebacker -- off the line of scrimmage and head-up against the quarterback and tailback -- to strong-side linebacker -- occasionally on the line of scrimmage and head-up against a tight end.

Collins said Posluszny will still play off the ball for certain calls. Posluszny wasn't terrible in man coverage last year -- 7-of-16 for 90 yards and three pass break-ups.

Accustomed to staying on the field, if Posluszny plays only in the base package, his playing time could be cut by 60 percent.

Brown, 23, was selected No. 148 overall by the Jaguars. He led Ohio with 128 tackles (15 for lost yardage) as a senior and his 40-yard dash time of 4.65 seconds at the Scouting Combine was fifth-fastest among the linebackers.

"You can even see [the speed] on film," Jaguars college scouting director Mark Ellenz said. "He's got a lot of range to get outside and he comes downhill with a purpose. Very physical player. Kind of meets all of the criteria that we're looking for in a linebacker."

McNary and Cole played 375 and 246 special teams snaps, respectively, last year and have a combined 15 starts.

Staff writer Phillip Heilman contributed to this story.

Coming Wednesday: Running backs.

___

(c)2017 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.)

Visit The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.) at www.jacksonville.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

AdChoices