The Jaguars’ defensive front seven was one of the team’s strong points this year, but it’s far from perfect. Ryan Day broke down the defensive linemen, and I’ll cover the back three of the Jaguars’ front seven.
Telvin Smith had an all-star year, totaling 118 tackles, a sack, two interceptions, and eight defended passes. Heading into the season, everyone knew at how well he defended the run and was able to shoot gaps with ease (totaling 22 tackles for loss in 2014-2015, and adding 14 this year), but he significantly improved on his pass defense, as seen by his two interceptions and eight defended passes. Smith has established himself as one of the best outside linebackers in the NFL.
Paul Posluszny, although he yet again recorded a ton of tackles — 133 this year — has regressed more and more every season. He’s slowing down in the open field, as he whiffed on tackles several times noticeably this past season, and is a liability in coverage as a middle linebacker, too. Can he fill gaps in contribution to the run defense? Yes, but that doesn’t cut it anymore. Pass plays across the middle continually beat the Jaguars up this year, and that falls on Posluszny in middle coverage. Hopefully, the team will move Myles Jack to middle linebacker next season, as he’s known to be a great coverage player.
Speaking of Myles Jack, Jack had a disappointing season. That does not fall on him, though. Jack was forced to start at OTTO linebacker, and split snaps with Dan Skuta in every game that he played. In 16 games, he put together 24 tackles and two defended passes, as well has half of a sack.
OTTO is not Jack’s home position. He was drafted as a middle linebacker, and with a coaching staff in place that doesn’t include Gus Bradley, we should expect the team to use him more next year, especially at his home position of middle linebacker.
Dan Skuta had a fair season as a run-defending OTTO, but didn’t show much else. He is likely to be cut this offseason, considering he’s scheduled to make $4.1 million next year — just too much for a 30 year old reserve linebacker.
Assuming the team makes smart personnel decisions, which I believe they will with Tom Coughlin in charge now, you should see a shakeup with the linebackers next year. Telvin Smith should be extended the second he is eligible for one this offseason, Myles Jack should be moved to middle linebacker, with Paul Posluszny taking more of a mentor role for run defense and see some snaps on run downs, and potentially move Dante Fowler Jr. to strong-side linebacker, where he fits best as a guy who can stunt-rush the quarterback and cover the flats, which is what he did well in college — whereas he never thrived as a true edge rusher.