The other day, I wrote an article in which I graded the Jacksonville Jaguars’ linebackers for the 2016 season. After reading my thoughts on Paul Posluszny, I received questions as to what makes me think Posluszny not that good anymore.
It comes down to this: Paul Posluszny has simply slowed down — that’s just the nature of the game for a 10th year veteran linebacker. He once was great, consistently playing at a high level in his time in Buffalo and in his first three seasons as a Jaguar. He was once the best player on the Jaguars’ defense, if not entire team.
But he isn’t anymore.
Am I saying he’s awful? No. There are still aspects of his game that he performs well at — specifically defending the run in the tackle box. Now, is that the most important skill for a linebacker to have? No, there’s much more to it, but regardless, he provides value for the run defense when run plays target the middle of the field and the tackle box.
Posluszny may not be the fastest player on the field — in fact, he’s far from it — but considering his size and toughness, he’s able to consistently play the run, whether it be staying home and reading the blocks to dictate the running back will come up the middle:
... or clogging holes along the trenches (Posluszny not only clogged the hole here, but was also credited with the tackle):
There is some value in this aspect of linebacker play. However, there’s so much more that a linebacker needs to be consistently good at to be considered good. Being strong and smart (football IQ), valuable traits for middle linebackers. Posluszny checks off in those two boxes, but being able to apply those traits mixed with speed and getting to the ball — this includes changing direction effectively — are also necessary skills for middle linebackers (article per Matt Miller of Bleacher Report). Posluszny doesn’t check off in those boxes:
In this play, Posluszny displays that he simply doesn’t have the closing speed to go sideline-to-sideline to stop plays from being extended.
Here’s another play that shows Posluszny’s wear and tear has caught up with him: He simply doesn’t have the speed or the ability to use speed to his advantage in pursuing a ball-carrier that’s needed to thrive as a middle linebacker — this time, he fails to make a routine stop along the middle of the field on a slant route:
Over-pursuit kills Posluszny in the open field. It all correlates to his speed and age catching up with him. Middle linebacker, as prestigious of a position as it is as the leader of the defense, or “field general”, causes a lot of wear and tear on the body and ability:
The receiver barely cut left at all and was slowed down by Josh Johnson, and yet Posluszny still whiffed his tackle. Luckily, Telvin Smith came in last second to knock the receiver off his feet just after Posluszny missed.
Pass coverage has never been an asset of Posluszny’s game, although it has seemingly become more and more of a problem for Posluszny over the years. Yet again, it comes from the wear and tear he has developed — it’s what happens; it’s the nature of the game.
Posluszny can impact the passing game in the way that he impacts the run game: Just being there. If the opposing QB throws a ball within a few yard radius of Posluszny, he will likely make the tackle to end the play:
If I were to be overly nit-picky, I would make a claim that Posluszny took a bad angle (as he ended up behind the receiver and had to pull him back for the tackle) here simply because he has really slowed down, but all in all, he ended the play by making the tackle. This is where he can positively make an impact in the pass game, but since it doesn’t involve him doing much besides taking three or so steps forward and engaging, is it special? No.
But when it comes to moving around in pass coverage, Posluszny isn’t going to break up passes or eliminate receivers from being open. The receiver will get open in Posluszny’s zone and catch the ball, barring a bad throw or drop, and from that point — Posluszny has play catch up.
In this situation, a late screen is thrown to the running back, and Posluszny doesn’t have the speed to eliminate the back from being open. To make things worse: Posluszny also misses the tackle:
In the next play, Posluszny is right side linebacker with responsibility of the middle and to the right sideline. When the ball is thrown on the route across the middle to the right, Posluszny is too far away to even make an impact on the ball, and then he is left in another game of catch up — he never stood a chance:
Football is a game of speed. Posluszny simply doesn’t have that speed to be an all-around middle linebacker anymore. It’s not something worth excusing, defense’s rely on speed. If the leader of the defense in the middle linebacker, let alone any player, can’t provide the necessary speed to check off all of his responsibilities, it simply means it’s time to upgrade.
On that note: Jacksonville has a linebacker — an heir to Posluszny — in their hands in Myles Jack. The second round pick in 2016 was drafted to be a middle linebacker and was listed as a middle linebacker until he was thrown into action as the OTTO strong-side linebacker last year. OTTO wasn’t Jack’s squeeze, as seen by his impact and the fact that he only played 239 snaps at the position last year. With a year of learning from Posluszny, as well as Telvin Smith and the Jaguars’ entire linebacker core last year — something Jack told me he valued last summer at training camp...
(When asked about who his biggest role model has been on the field so far): "It's really been that whole LB group, they've all taken me under their wing, and they're bringing me along. It's actually kind of cool just having them all jump in and teach me different thing and give me their input. It's no one person, you know what I mean, it's every single person, from Poz [Paul Posluszny] to Telvin [Smith] to Jordan Tripp to Hayes [Pullard III], you know everybody's in my corner. It's a good position to be in."
...Jack should be ready to make the jump to middle linebacker soon.
People will rush to say Posluszny was better last year than he was in 2015. If you want to believe that, that’s fine! I don’t disagree nor agree, I’d rather remain neutral and can say I didn’t go as in-depth with Posluszny’s 2015 film as I did with his 2016 film. But the bottom line is, as I said before: Football is a game of speed — and Posluszny doesn’t have that speed anymore.
People seem to hold onto what Posluszny once was — a great linebacker. Can I blame you for that? No, of course not. The team had a miserable year and we all, myself included, want to preach the positives. However, there’s a limit on what can be preached. The longing for Posluszny to be the player he once was has led to him being overrated by Jaguars fans. I’m just trying to prevent that, because as he ages, he distances himself from being that player he once was.
As great of a guy Paul Posluszny is; as great of a role model and leader as he is for this young team; as great as he once was as a player — Posluszny just isn’t that good anymore. Considering he’s going into his 11th year in the NFL and that the team is 3-13 with a bit (a lot) of work to be done in order to be a better team as a whole, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal to move him into more of a depth/mentor role.
It’s just the nature of the game.