The Jacksonville Jaguars are largely set with their starting lineup on the defensive side of the ball. The edge is anchored well with Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue at the ends, the interior will see a mix of Malik Jackson, Marcell Dareus, Abry Jones, first round pick Taven Bryan will see looks at several positions, the secondary has All-Pro cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye on the outside with Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson at safety, and Myles Jack and Telvin Smith are as dangerous a linebacker duo as there is in the NFL.
But what about the void Paul Posluszny left when he retired a few months ago?
We all thought it would be Blair Brown starting at strongside linebacker. Brown was experienced, he’d been with the team... it seemed like a fit.
Until seventh round rookie linebacker Leon Jacobs entered the picture, that is.
“I think Leon [Jacobs] has come in and done a really good job,” head coach Doug Marrone said in June during mini camp practices. “I think that he can play the SAM linebacker position also.”
Brown is now backing up Smith at the weakside linebacker position and Jacobs has the inside track to take the starting SAM linebacker position — another late round phenom in the linebackers room for general manager Dave Caldwell.
“He is doing well,” said defensive coordinator Todd Wash after Monday’s practice. “It is a situation where he is obviously a rookie. He steps on the grass and all the different looks our offense is giving us is great for the growth and development of him. We are seeing some real good things. Obviously, we are looking for consistency out of him, but we are excited with where he is at, at this time.”
The strongside linebacker isn’t a “starting” position per se but 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.
“Mentally, there are no issues,” Wash said. “He understands what we are asking him to do within our scheme and he is going out there with the best of his ability and executing it. He is a very analytical guy, so you really have to make sure it is black and white for him. There is no grey. He does a nice job of studying.”
It’s been fun to watch Jacobs’ rise to the top in just a few short months. And it’ll be even more fun to watch him in the preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.