While the 2020 NFL season will certainly be among the strangest, most complicated, perhaps in its existence, Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack will have to take full advantage after switching from middle linebacker to weak-side linebacker.
Veterans are expected to report for training camp later this week to be tested under the NFL’s new guidelines, but once the cleats hit the gridiron, onlookers will be keeping a close eye on how Jack fits into his new position.
For the past two seasons, Jack has been the quarterback on defense for the Jaguars, calling all of the defensive plays in the huddle, lining his teammates up and allowing the majority of plays to funnel in his direction, however, issues have presented themselves as the talent surrounding Jack declined, forcing him to do too much, more than his position called for.
In 2019, it was clear Jack was missing something, whether that be retired linebacker Telvin Smith, or simply more talent surrounding him, he was not able to ever get into his groove. On the year, Jack accumulated 66 tackles, three tackles-for-loss and one interception before being placed on the team’s reserve/injured list 11 weeks into the season.
Since being drafted in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Jack has been known for his big-play ability and athleticism, able to go sideline-to-sideline with ease, similar to what he did in the AFC Title game some years ago, which gave onlookers and fans the notorious “Myles Jack wasn’t down” play.
Now, after two seasons of playing in a restricted role, he will be allowed to freelance once more.
With the addition of middle linebacker Joe Schobert in free agency this March, Jack will be able to play a more natural, yet untested, position at weak-side linebacker, with the hopes of allowing him to think less, and make more plays. Jack has never played the weak-side role in any capacity, in college or the pros.
“He feels very comfortable over there [weak-side linebacker],” Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash said when asked about Jack’s new role earlier this offseason. “I think he feels a little bit more comfortable instead of making the calls. He’s able to listen.
“I really look forward to him being at the [weak-side] spot, that’s really a great playmaking position, Telvin [Smith] did a great job with that in the past and now, obviously, we think Myles can be a great Will linebacker also.”
With Jack on the outside, able to make more plays, it could have a ripple effect for the Jaguars’ defense, allowing for fewer mistakes to be made in the middle of the field, and more plays made on the boundaries.
Teams will need to account for Jack’s ability to make plays with speed, not necessarily able to pick on the flats or along the boundary of the team’s defensive line as often. Without much traffic flowing to Jack, he can assist in shoring up the team’s porous run defense that was on full display in 2019.
Shortly before the start of the 2019 regular season, Jack signed a massive four-year $57M contract extension with $33M guaranteed. Schobert signed a five-year $53.75M contract with $21.50M guaranteed with the team earlier this offseason. In total, the Jaguars will have spent a total of $54.5M in guaranteed money to fix their linebacker corp.
With such a heavy investment in the position heading into 2020, the Jaguars feel strongly that the strength of their defense will come within this group, allowing others around them to play faster, and better as a result. Time will tell whether that comes to fruition.