The Jacksonville Jaguars opened up camp nearly one week ago, and one of the day one surprises was rookie seventh-round draft pick Leon Jacobs immediately earning first-team reps at strong-side linebacker (SAM). It was surprising because many expected second-year linebacker Blair Brown to take over that role.
Now that we’re six practices in, Brown has worked exclusively at the weak-side linebacker (WILL) spot each day, as Mike Kaye of First Coast News notes. With Jacobs working on the sideline today, it was Brooks Ellis taking first-team reps on the strong-side. Manase Hungalu, an undrafted free agent out of Oregon State, also practiced at SAM.
It’s not all that shocking that Brown is working as weak-side linebacker, as he played there often in 2017. Brown started two games at WILL last year in place of an injured Telvin Smith. However, many expected Brown to make the transition to the strong side in 2018 and to have a leg up over the rookie Jacobs. That does not seem to be the case, however.
Head coach Doug Marrone talked about Brown at the SAM multiple times this offseason, including during minicamp. So, it’s interesting that Brown never got a look there from the first day on.
While the strong-side linebacker is not on the field every down — often coming off of the field in passing situations where the Jaguars would be in a nickel or dime package — it is still an important position in the base 4-3 defense.
Jacobs is extremely athletic, but is also strong and well-built. Jacobs’ athletic traits and specific skill set must have allowed the coaching staff to deem him as the better fit for the strong-side linebacker position.
While there are still several training camp sessions before Jacksonville’s first preseason game on Aug. 9, and things can certainly change between now and then, the SAM linebacker spot appears to be Jacobs’ to lose. Meanwhile, Brown appears to remain the backup weak-side linebacker.