The Jacksonville Jaguars defense is seemingly set. The “starting five” in the secondary are cemented with All-Pro cornerbacks and a high-priced nickelback and two veteran safeties. The base down linebackers are Myles Jack and Telvin Smith, no question. And the defensive line will probably have first round rookie Taven Bryan coming in and out for varied positions along the line, but it’s set with Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson, Marcell Dareus, and Yannick Ngakoue getting the lion’s share of the carries.
But what about the SAM linebacker spot? It’s not a “starting” position but last year’s SAM linebacker — Paul Posluszny — played over 46 percent of the defensive snaps overall in 2017. Part of that was Posluszny’s role as the sometimes base linebacker on run downs. Some of that was because of Telvin’s injuries late in the season. But a typical SAM linebacker should expect somewhere between 30-40 percent of the snaps on defense.
When speaking to the media after Day 3 of mandatory mini camp, head coach Doug Marrone was asked how he saw the linebacker competition. Two players stood out to him immediately: Blair Brown and Leon Jacobs.
“I see that we have some versatility. Blair [Brown] can play behind the ball, which I think he is better at. He can play on the ball, which he has shown now. I think Leon [Jacobs] has come in and done a really good job. I think that he can play the SAM linebacker position also. Brooks Ellis is a guy that maybe I did not notice as much last year, but I really think that he has come up and done a good job there. He has multiple position flexibility with SAM and MIKE. I also think that [Donald] Payne in the beginning. We put him in there without Myles [Jack], and he did a nice job of showing he can run. Deon King has done a nice job for us there. Telvin [Smith], this is one of the best camps I have seen him have since he has been here. He has really done a good job. We know what Myles can do. I think from what I have seen from that group is that we have some position flexibility and obviously we have two positions [settled] and that third position, it will be interesting to see who wins that position when we put the pads on — the SAM linebacker position.”
While Brown is still the favorite to take over the strong side, the ultra-athletic Jacobs could push him based on how well he grasps the defense. It will likely be Brown starting at SAM, but you never know who may emerge during the preseason.