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Breaking down Jaguars defense: Linebacker group has high upside

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NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars-Minicamp Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars defense on paper looks like a top end unit in the NFL for the 2017 season. I would expect the Jaguars defense to be a Top 10 overall unit this upcoming season by season’s end, as on paper it looks really good, but as with everything on paper, that’s on paper. Each level of the defense has a playmaker on it, coupled with young players with upside and at least one wily veteran, but there is also a concern at each level as well.

I wanted to run through each level and notate the playmaker and the concern and we’ll continue by moving to the linebackers.

The Playmaker

As it stands right now, the playmaker of the linebacker group is Telvin Smith. The former fifth-round pick is entering a contract season. The hope is that the team will re-sign Smith, and really it should be a no brainer, but there is some concern he could be let to walk. Outside of the contract situation, on the field Smith is often the heartbeat of the Jaguars defense. He’s consistently been someone who stands out for making big plays consistently, be it in the run game or defending the pass. I would expect early on, Smith is going to maintain that position as the “playmaker” of the group.

The Concern

The concern for the Jaguars in the linebacker group is really the unknown. Myles Jack has been introduced as the team’s starting middle linebacker, which means he’s going to end up a three down player. It’s a concern in the sense that you’re taking a known commodity in veteran linebacker Paul Posluszny and replacing him with the uber athletic Jack at an important position. There are most definitely going to be some growing pains, but the reality is we really don’t know what we’re going to get and that’s the “concern”.

Personally however, I don’t really have much concern for how Jack will perform as the MIKE in the defense and believe what he brings in coverage ability and athleticism will quickly make up for his learning curve.