With how the Jacksonville Jaguars handled free agency by adding a starting cornerback, free safety, and a starting defensive tackle on defense, it has begun to appear more and more likely that if they had it their way, then UCLA linebacker Myles Jack will end up a member of the Jaguars on Thursday, April 28th during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
From a needs, talent, and impact standpoint, Jack seems like a perfect fit. He'd bring a combination of athleticism and pass coverage ability that the Jaguars severely lack in their linebackers unit.
"Speaking of Jack, he said this week that the San Diego Chargers view him as a safety and not a linebacker. When we spoke recently, Jack told me the Jacksonville Jaguars would also like to use him in a hybrid safety/linebacker role."
So, if the Jaguars did end up selecting Jack and used him as a hybrid safety/linebacker, how would Myles Jack fit into this role and how would the rest of the defense shake up?
Myles Jack is as fast, if not faster, than most safeties and he comes in at larger than prototypical size at 245 pounds. In the Jaguars defense though Jack would be only a safety by the label. His role would more than likely be that of a player who lines up in the slot or the box on most plays. Think about Johnathan Cyprien's role, or Aaron Colvin's role on third downs.
The Jaguars utilizing Jack in this way on run downs in 2016 would make a ton of sense for a number of reasons.
For one, it would allow them to keep veteran inside linebacker Paul Posluszny on the field in situations where he is the most impactful -- run downs where he calls the defense.
It would also allow Dan Skuta to stay on the field at strongside linebacker, where he at the least was extremely effective as an edge setter against the run.
It would also be replacing much maligned Cyprien. Cyprien has been the same player for three years so it is unlikely he dramatically changes overnight. As both a pass defender and run defender in the box and in space, Jack is an upgrade over Cyprien and it isn't even really close.
So say the defense looked like this on run downs:
Linebackers: Telvin Smith, Paul Posluszny, and Dan Skuta
Cornerbacks: Davon House, Prince Amurkurmana
Free Safety: Tashaun Gipson
Strong Safety: Myles Jack
That would be a defense that has added speed, versatility, and pass defense ability all while keeping two of its best run defenders on the field. Hmm.
On passing downs, Jack could give the Jaguars an even bigger boost by allowing them to move Posluszny off the field. Jack could slide down from a box/slot defending role into a more prototypical linebacker role where he could make a large impact by potentially shutting down an entire portion of the middle of the field.
In terms of pass coverage, inside linebackers can make a larger impact than say a weakside linebacker or a strong safety. They can defend a larger portion of the middle of the field compared to defenders who are simply covering curl/flat zones.
The Jaguars have tried to use Telvin Smith like this, but contrary to popular stereotypes on smaller and athletic linebackers, he simply isn't very good in coverage. But Jack thrives there.
So on passing downs, the Jaguars defense could shape up like this:
Linebackers: Telvin Smith, Myles Jack
Cornerbacks: Davon House, Aaron Colvin, Prince Amurkurmana
Free Safety: Tashaun Gipson
Strong Safety: Whoever wins in a competition between Cyprien and Sample... and personally, I would root for Sample to win.
At the end of the day, Jack being used as a movable chess piece in the box is the best way to use him as a rookie to ease him into the NFL, as well as the way for the Jaguars to best maximize the talent they have on defense currently.
In 2017, the hope would be that you could move Jack into a full-time inside linebacker role and Sample could develop into a full-time safety.
But 2017 doesn't matter right now. 2016 matters. And in 2016, this is how Jack fits into the defense. And it is a very, very nice fit.