Jacksonville’s defense wasn’t particularly effective in any aspect last season, finishing 27th in the league in passing yards allowed and 30th in rushing yards allowed. With that in mind, you wouldn’t think that the Jaguars would boast one of the better linebacker duos in the league.
But perhaps the team thinks otherwise. Aside from adding Kansas City’s Damien Wilson (and maybe the addition of Dylan Moses), the Jags didn’t make any major changes to the group this offseason, and their projected starters remain the same.
The obvious headliner is Myles Jack, now entering his sixth season. The veteran has been productive for Jacksonville, but he had some of the best play of his entire career to begin the year in 2020.
It’s for this reason that Jack ranks No. 10 in the NFL linebacker rankings from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, who based his list on the opinions of executives, coaches and players from around the league.
Jack was underachieving at middle linebacker; the arrival of free agent Joe Schobert slid him to the outside. That might have been the best move Jacksonville made during a brutal 1-15 season in 2020.
“He played like an All-Pro last year,” an NFC exec said of Jack.
Jack showed his range with 49 run-stop tackle wins (plays within 3 yards of the line of scrimmage). One AFC coach called him more of a “listener than commander,” hence the move to the outside suiting him.
Our final top-10 linebacker, Jack edged out Deion Jones, whose elite speed landed him in the top five last year. But Jack is fast too, and he has nearly 20 pounds on Jones (244 vs. 227).
“Would like to see him more consistent, but it is really tough to get past him,” an NFC coach said. “[The Jaguars] are letting him play fast and float to the ball.”
Jack is certainly the highest-profile player the team currently has on the roster who isn’t named Trevor Lawrence, but his success in 2020 can’t be discussed without mentioning the addition of Schobert.
The middle linebacker wasn’t absurdly impressive in his first season with the team, but he was solid and started every game, clearing the way for Jack to play in his more natural position on the outside. Schobert’s production was still enough to get a mention from an AFC defensive coach, though he didn’t crack the top-10.
“Good field general, great in zone coverage,” the coach said. “Never going to be the big, physical guy.”
Between Jack and Schobert, the Jags should have a solid starting duo, though depth at the position still leaves a bit to be desired. The team will certainly hope so, as it will need its defense to perform much better in 2021 if it wants to be competitive in the AFC South race.