There is no other position on the Jacksonville Jaguars defense that is in the situation that their inside linebacker position is in going into 2016. For most of the spots on defense, they do not have the player of the future or of the present. There are a few spots where they do have core players, such as outside linebacker Telvin Smith or defensive end with Jared Odrick. But inside linebacker is something different completely.
The Jaguars have their present day player in place and have for years in Paul Posluszny. I have been critical of Posluszny over the years, but 2015 opened my eyes to his value to the defense. Not only was it the best season of his career, but the defense went into disaster mode every time he missed a game, with the second Colts game an outlier.
But as important as Posluszny is to the Jaguars defense in the present tense, it is clear that he is not the player of the future. He has had several injuries over the last few seasons and the way his contract is set up, 2016 is likely going to be his final season as a Jaguars player. Posluszny should have his spot in the defense locked up for 2016, but beyond that the Jaguars need to find some answers.
Could that answer be Arizona Linebacker Scooby Wright?
2014 vs. 2015: A tale of two Scoobys
There is no player in the entire 2016 NFL Draft that had as different a final college season as the season before than Wright.
In 2014, Wright was the most productive linebacker in the country. He had 164 total tackles (first in the NCAA), 31 tackles for a loss (first in the NCAA), five forced fumbles (first in the NCAA), and 15 sacks (third in the NCAA). He also raked in the awards, winning the Chuck Bednarik Award, the Bronko Nagurski Award, PAC-12 Player of the Year Award award, and finished ninth in Heisman voting.
But 2015 was a completely different story entirely. Wright was unable to repeat his insane production from the year before because of a number of injuries he suffered throughout the year. He tore the meniscus in his left knee in Week 1 and then suffered a sprained foot after taking only three weeks to return the knee injury.
All in all, Wright only played in 3 games in 2015 and his ability to continuously stay healthy is a question that teams are going to have to evaluate. They're going to need to know which Scooby Wright they are drafting, be it the uber-productive one from 2014 or the injury-riddled 2015 version.
Importance of variety
"Sameness is the mother of disgust, variety is the cure."
-- Francesco Petrarch
This quote can apply to a lot of aspects of life, but it is especially appropriate when talking about the prospects of Wright and his fit with the Jaguars.
The problem with the Jaguars defense over the past few seasons has been their lack of ability to both get after the quarterback, taking down players in space and defend the pass with their back seven defenders.
Despite all of Posluszny's ability vs the run, he has been a constant liability in both of these areas and, despite his sack production in 2014, Wright's skill set does not suggest that he would fare much better.
Wright produced big time as a blitzer in 2014 but his skill set does not really scream NFL pass rusher. He was able to win as a blitzer and a pass rusher more due to his motor and technique than his natural gifts.
But the NFL is the stage of natural gifts. Having the athleticism that so many teams seek is what separates great players from good ones and good ones from average ones. Wright's skill set was one that could work on the college level against lesser players but it is unclear how he will fare against better athletes.
What is clear though is that when Wright's number was called upon as a pass rusher and his motor and technique failed him and he had to resort to athleticism, he was anything but productive.
As a defender in space and in coverage, there are still questions that remain with Wright that are all to similar to the questions that have held Posluszny back from being effective in all parts of the game.
Wright's greatest calling card is his production, but in 30 career games he only recorded one interception and one pass deflection. He was ineffective against the pass to the point where Arizona was taking his coverage assignments away completely in some situations. Any team that has had issues with its linebackers in pass coverage should not really be looking at Wright as a solution.
Wright, like Posluszny, also has a lot of issues making plays in space. This is in large part because, like Posluszny, he has the instincts to get in position but often his physical shortcomings are too much for him in comparison to skill players.
If the Jaguars are looking for their inside linebacker of the future than they need to bring some variety to the position. You can do a lot worse than find the next Posluszny but considering that the defense needs something at the position that isn't Posluszny, they need to look at a different type of linebacker.
This isn't to say Wright does not bring some quality tangibles to the position. He is instinctive, strong vs blockers, and has the type of production that is hard to ignore.
But at the end of the day, the defense from 2013 to 2015 had an instinctive linebacker who is strong against blockers and has the type of production that is hard to ignore but... they have still been a bad defense.
This isn't to take anything away from Posluszny. He has been a great player for what they have needed. But with the direction the Jaguars are headed in, they need a different type of player. Sameness at the inside linebacker position will bring more disgust when they are in need of a cure.
The Jaguars need to address the future of their inside linebacker spot soon, but it would do them a lot of good to look at different types of options than the ones that are already on the team. It is time for some variety. It is time to find the cure for the middle of the defense.