New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) gives a hug to Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny. File photo by Matthew Healey/UPI | License Photo
JACKSONVILLE -- Paul Posluszny is helping Myles Jack learn a new position. Myles Jack is helping Paul Posluszny learn a new position. And the Jacksonville Jaguars are hoping that will pay dividends in making the Jaguars' 2017 defense stronger than it was a year ago.
Posluszny has been the Jaguars' starting middle linebacker for the last six years. He's been a good one, leading the team in tackles five times, all but the 2014 season when a torn pectoral muscle sent him to injured reserve after just five games that season.
Jack is the second-year player from UCLA who the Jaguars snared in the second round of the 2015 draft, trading up several spots on the second day to assure themselves of selecting Jack. He was considered a possible first-round selection, but teams became apprehensive about the serious knee injury he had in his last season with the Bruins. The Jaguars did their testing of Jack and concluded that he was worth the gamble of a high second-round choice. The knee was no issue at all last year when Jack started 10 games at outside linebacker and would have started four others except that the Jaguars started the game with five defensive backs on the field.
Jack was picked with the notion that he would be groomed to replace Posluszny at the middle linebacker spot. But with the 10-year veteran playing so well in 2016, the Jaguars could ill afford to bench him in favor of Jack. As a result, Jack was given a crash course as an outside linebacker that somewhat restricted his athleticism to roan the field and make plays.
But this is 2017 and the Jaguars can't wait any further to insert Jack into the middle to fully take advantage of his talents. That meant either sending Posluszny to the bench or finding another position for him. Welcome to the strong-side linebacker spot Posluszny. When the NFL veteran was told he would be moving to the outside, he didn't complain, but instead called it the biggest challenge of his career. It also meant the Jaguars now had two players at positions where they had never started an NFL game before. Thus the need to help each other.
"He's been nothing but help and I greatly appreciate it because he doesn't have to do that by any means, but I really appreciate it," Jack said following one of the team's OTAs this first week. "He was straight-up with me. He was like, 'Let's do this man. Let's win. If this is what it takes to win.' He was all for it.
"It's a big responsibility, but it's been fun. It's really all the responsibility is put on your plate as far as No. 1: getting the defense aligned, the defensive linemen aligned, making the calls, making the checks, talking to the defensive backs. I mean I've definitely had to study a lot more when I go home, take a nap and then get on the film and just get to studying, but it's been fun."
Jack didn't hesitate when he was asked if he occasionally asked Posluszny for advice.
"It's not even occasionally; it's frequently," he said. "Even when I'm out there, I'm asking him questions like, 'Should I have done this, should I have done that, what would you have done in a situation?' After practice we'll watch film, we'll get together and we'll watch it together. He's been like an older brother to me, just really taking me under his wing."
So how has Posluszny taken to the new position? We don't know because of limitations put on players being made available to the media, Posluszny has yet to make an appearance and discuss his new role. He did however do an interview for the team's website, Jaguars.com LIVE this week and had a lot of praise for Jack.
"He looks unbelievable," Posluszny said. "He's going to be a great middle linebacker for us. He has done a great job of taking command of the huddle and leading the defense from a communication perspective. We all know physically he has all the gifts. He has all the talents to make the plays on the field."
Jack is taking part in his first OTAs with the Jaguars, having missed them last year because he was ineligible to participate because of the NFL's graduation rules that prohibit a player from practicing with his NFL team if his school is still in session. As a result, he got the crash course of how to play both in the middle and the outside linebacker spots when training camp opened last summer.
Posluszny needs the OTAs to help get adjusted to his new spot and the new responsibilities that the Jaguars have put in for that position.
"Last year we tried to have that guy be another rusher. That's obviously not my skill set," he said.
How well Posluszny and Jack adapt to their new positions will be crucial to the success of the defense. If either or both players can't make the adjustment, the Jaguars will be in a heap of trouble as there is not a dependable backup player that can replace either Posluszny or Jack. It's the reason that OTAs have never been more important to these two Jaguars players or the rest of the defense.