We've taken a loot at the depth and battles that will be done in the secondary for the Jacksonville Jaguars, both the cornerback and the safety positions. We can finish out the back seven now by looking at one of the most interesting positions on the defensive side of the ball headed into the 2016 season, the linebackers.
I say interesting, because outside of Telvin Smith, Paul Posluszny, Dan Skuta and Myles Jack, who knows what the depth chart could look like.
Returning player(s): Telvin Smith, Paul Posluszny, Dan Skuta, Jordan Tripp, Hayes Pullard, Thurston Armbrister. Joplo Bartu, Sean Porter
New player(s): Myles Jack (R), Tyrone Holmes (R), Bjoern Werner (FA)
Outgoing player(s): N/A (I think?)
Bubble player(s): Jordan Tripp, Hayes Pullard, Thurston Armbrister. Joplo Bartu, Sean Porter, Bjoern Werner
It goes without saying that the core four linebackers for the Jaguars will be Smith, Poz, Skuta and Myles Jack. They will likely be the most often used and on the field more than the rest, but after those four is the big question, and versatility will be the key. It's like that on third downs the Jaguars will end up with Myles Jack and Paul Posluszny. What? Yeah, I know. For whatever reason, this staff loves having Poz on third downs, despite the fact that he's not great in coverage. Despite popular belief, Smith isn't great in coverage either, but his speed far more makes up for any deficiencies he may have in that area. Ideally you'd want Smith and Jack on the field, but I don't think we're going to get that just yet, at least not early in the season.
You'll see Skuta at the OTTO/LEO position, which is where I think we will end up seeing Tyrone Holmes early in his career. I don't think they risk losing him to waivers trying to stash him on the practice squad, and I speculated they might do some nifty roster math and call him a linebacker for right now and that's exactly what they've done. They did the same thing for Bjoern Werner, which is why I have him listed here as a linebacker and not a LEO end. He's probably a better fit with his hand on the ground, but maybe the team values him setting the edge as a strongside linebacker... or something. I don't know. I would imagine he's used with his hand on the ground and if he makes the final roster, could be listed at linebacker for roster math.
The real guys to keep an eye on depth wise in my opinion are Jordan Tripp and Hayes Pullard. Tripp filled in a few games last season and did a very nice job, making you forget about Poz for a bit. He's versatile in that he can play all three linebacker spots and also is good on special teams. Pullard is similar in that I think he can play WILL and in the middle, as well as special teams. I think in order for someone else to make the roster, they'll need to supplant these two players.
As for guys like Thurston Armbrister, I think it's going to be tight and he'll need to show some significant improvement from last year. He entered the season as the primary backup, but quickly lost playing time after a dreadful game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where a lot of the run fits just didn't get lined up correctly. I don't know anything at all about Bartu, but I remember Sean Porter being an interesting draft prospect without a fit at a true linebacker spot. He did a lot of stuff for Texas A&M, including rushing the passer as a blitzer, but he's probably going to stick as a weakside linebacker/special teamer if he makes the roster.