As I did last year, I’ve contacted every SB Nation college blog that had a player drafted to the Jaguars. It’s both fun and insightful to get to know the new prospects through the people who have covered those players over the past several years.
To kick off our 2018 series, we spoke with Jake Kocorowski, editor at Bucky’s 5th Quarter. The Jaguars drafted supreme athlete Leon Jacobs out of Wisconsin in the seventh round. Jake is here to provide more insight into Jacksonville’s new linebacker.
Jacobs is expected to compete for playing time at the SAM linebacker spot and on special teams. Let’s learn a little bit more about him. And away we go!
RO: We know the Jaguars are getting an athletic freak in Leon Jacobs, but what else does he bring to the table? What are his strengths and weaknesses?
JK: You are absolutely correct in Jacobs being extremely athletic. As our own Owen Riese mentioned in his scouting report of Jacobs, he is also “chiseled.” It’s true. I still remember covering Wisconsin media day last summer and chatting with Jacobs, then noticing his arms were the size of my head.
On the field, he brings some versatility in that he played both inside and outside linebacker in his time at Wisconsin. There was a willingness to do whatever was best for the team, even moving to fullback for a brief time for the 2016 season before injuries at inside linebacker prompted him to return to the defensive side of the ball. He is explosive, extremely strong, can run downhill quickly with that 4.48-second (40-yard dash) speed, and he can close on ball carriers.
On the flip side, he moved around a lot so I still think his best football is ahead of him once he settles down into a defined role (which with this Wisconsin draft class is a theme with Natrell Jamerson, Jack Cichy and Jacobs all having played at least a couple of positions at the collegiate level). I think he is more explosive downhill rather than laterally, with some of the 20-yard shuttle and 3-cone drill times performed at the NFL Combine demonstrating that.
RO: Jacobs played in an FBS record 59 games for the Badgers. Was he an immediate starter/rotational player as a freshman for Wisconsin who showed incredible durability throughout his career? Or is this more of a testament to Wisconsin having consistently good teams that often played in the Big Ten Championship game, as well as a bowl game every year he was there? Perhaps a combination of all of the above?
JK: As a disclaimer, Jacobs played in three games in 2015 before a toe injury cost him the rest of the season, so he received a medical redshirt waiver that granted him an extra year of eligibility. Still, he played in 56 games the other four years.
He started only 18 games in his career, with 14 of those coming in his senior season last year, so I would say it was a combination of what you mentioned above. He made a spot start earlier in his career (a 12-tackle, two TFL, 1.5-sack performance at inside linebacker versus Illinois in 2014) but also stepped up when needed (during the 2016 season, popped right back into inside linebacker from fullback and had an 11-tackle game against Nebraska in an overtime win at Camp Randall).
The number of games started should not be a knock against Jacobs, though, as they were obviously trying to find a home for him in which to contribute (and outside linebacker was extremely stacked with the likes of Joe Schobert, T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel holding down those positions in previous years). The athletic ability was always there, and finally this past season when given the chance to lock down at one of the outside linebacker slots, he was someone who opposing offenses had to watch out for each game.
RO: What is your favorite play/memory and/or full game performance by Jacobs? Why?
JK: His interception against Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game off of J.T. Barrett last season was a big individual moment for him, as he flashed some pass coverage potential while staying in space, then being able to recognize a ball tip drill. His interception versus Purdue also showcased his ability to defend the pass as well.
I still think the 11-tackle performance against Nebraska was maybe the biggest game in 2016. He was playing fullback for the first part of that season, and with Jack Cichy’s injury at Iowa the week prior knocking him out the rest of the year and Chris Orr already lost with a knee injury in the win against LSU at Lambeau Field, he was thrusted back to the inside linebacker spot and really helped that position group.
Maybe the favorite memory wasn’t even in a game. It was a practice, where he ran down current Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon after a big run...as a true freshman. That showed what athleticism he had coming in, though he was still relatively new to football itself.
RO: Jacobs has great speed and strength. What can Jacobs bring to the Jaguars as an edge-rusher if given the opportunity to blitz, and has he shown any ability to stop the run as well?
JK: The Wisconsin defender tallied 9.5 tackles for loss last season to 3.5 sacks, so a bunch of those TFLs were against the run. I think he fares well in that aspect of his game, as those attributes you mentioned allowed him to track down rushers. I thought he would have tallied more sacks last season, to be honest, but I think that also has to deal with Wisconsin facing a good chunk of offenses that got the ball out of the quarterbacks’ hands quicker and potentially some of the responsibilities at outside linebacker he was assigned to.
I think his strength and explosiveness can be used as a solid edge setter, but also in his pass rushing capabilities, but due to him bouncing around so much in his collegiate career, I really feel like he still can grow more in that role.
RO: Jacobs played outside linebacker, inside linebacker and even fullback for the Badgers, as you’ve mentioned. How can his versatility help him to have a long and productive career in the NFL? What are your expectations for him as a pro?
JK: Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard told reporters during spring ball that he felt New Orleans Saints fifth-round draft pick Natrell Jamerson still had his best football ahead of him. I feel the same way about Jacobs.
I believe that versatility can help him become an NFL veteran, though I definitely don’t see him returning to fullback or offense. Obviously, playing special teams at the next level will be crucial to him sticking around until he learns more of the position required of him at linebacker, but I think he has a real chance to grow in Jacksonville and become a significant contributor to both the defense and special teams. He has the size, athletic ability, intelligence and coachability to play on Sundays.
RO: If there’s anything else you would like the readers to know, please let us know:
JK: Jacobs really did personify a selflessness on the field in terms of moving positions to cater to this team. Personality-wise, he always seemed soft-spoken but direct to me. Check out some of our videos seen on our YouTube page (see below), as he always appeared calm and collected, and was extremely respectful to the media. I’m intrigued to see how he does in “Sacksonville.”
Here are those videos reference above:
Jacobs on forced fumble against Michigan (anybody who caused a Michigan player to fumble is great in my book):
Jacobs on defensive performance against Michigan:
Jacobs on his touchdown and defensive performance against Iowa:
Thank you to Jake for taking the time to speak with me, and for providing such detailed and informative responses! If you’d like to know more, be sure to follow Jake on Twitter, as well as Bucky’s 5th Quarter.
Your turn, Duval! Let us know how you feel about the selection of Jacobs and his fit with the Jaguars in the comments section below.