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On to 2024: Diving into Jaguars Linebackers Room

040224 on to 24 LB

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and Jaguars/NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks examine the Jaguars' linebackers in this position-by-position look at the '24 offseason

Position: Linebackers.

  • Position coach: Matt House.
  • 2023 starters: Foye Oluokun (17), Devin Lloyd (15), Chad Muma (2).
  • Others: Ventrell Miller, Caleb Johnson, Shaquille Quarterman, Dequan Jackson.

Jaguars 2023 Linebackers Position Group At A Glance:

This group had a similar storyline in 2023 to much of the Jaguars' defense, with the front seven strong against the run for the first three months of the season before struggling mightily during the final six weeks. The Jaguars finished the season ninth in the NFL against the run, but allowed 4.2 yards per rush and 15 rushing touchdowns. While the run defense had strong games down the stretch, the unit allowed 178.75 yards per game in four key second-half losses to four of the NFL's stronger running teams: the San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans. Oluokun for a second consecutive season led the Jaguars in tackles, registering 173 tackles – 111 solo – with eight for loss with 2.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hits. He also forced a fumble with three fumble recoveries, an interception and six passes defensed. Lloyd, the No. 27 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, missed two games with an early-season thumb injury and played through the injury much of the first half of the season. He finished second on the team with 127 tackles – 75 solo – with two tackles for loss and a quarterback hit with two fumble recoveries and seven passes defensed. Muma registered 12 tackles – five solo – with two passes defensed.

Offseason Storyline:

As is the case at defensive tackle and defensive end, there is transition here with Ryan Nielsen entering his first season as defensive coordinator after Mike Caldwell was dismissed from the position following the 2023 season. This position likely will have a similar look. Oluokun returns for his third season with the team after signing with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent in the 2022 offseason, and the team re-signed him to an extension last week. Lloyd expected to start for a third consecutive season. Muma, a third-round selection in '22, again projects as a top backup and special teams player. A storyline to watch: The development of Miller, a fourth-round selection in the 2023 NFL Draft who missed his entire rookie season. The team has not re-signed Quarterman, a fourth-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft and a solid special teams player for four seasons, after he became an unrestricted free agent free agent on March 13.

Free agents as of March 13: Quarterman, Johnson (restricted free agent, re-signed).

Bucky Brooks' Top Three Free-Agent Linebackers

  1. Frank Luvu, Carolina Panthers (signed with Washington Commanders)
  2. Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (re-signed with Buccaneers)
  3. Patrick Queen, Baltimore Ravens (signed with Pittsburgh Steelers)

Bucky Brooks' Top Three Collegiate Linebackers

  1. Edgerrin Cooper, Texas A&M
  2. Payton Wilson, North Carolina State
  3. Junior Colson, Michigan

Oehser Analysis: This is an intriguing position. With the starters and reserves seemingly set, the team didn't address the area in unrestricted free agency and it would be something of a surprise if it addressed it early in the 2024 NFL Draft. But while the position seems solid, it struggled at times late last season along with much of the Jaguars' defense. Oluokun is a solid starter in the middle, but a challenge for Nielsen and the new inside linebackers coach Matt House: Getting more impact from Lloyd, who has been spectacular at times as a playmaker but who has struggled at times with recognition and gap integrity. Muma and Miller are also key to this group, with both players capable of playing key roles but not yet doing so because of circumstance and injury.

Brooks' Analysis: The solid performance of the Jaguars' linebacker corps was one of the few bright spots for the defense. Oluokon and Lloyd excelled as second-level defenders with a knack for finding the ball with bad intentions. The duo combined for 300 tackles, ten tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks, exhibiting outstanding range as sideline-to-sideline defenders. In addition, they showed the ability to seamlessly transition from run stoppers to pass defenders in an aggressive scheme. While Muma should be able to make greater contributions as a "swing" player expected to fill in for Oluokon and Lloyd, the second-year pro's struggles in space make him a liability when given an expanded role. With Johnson and Quarterman plugged into permanent roles as special team specialists, the Jaguars needed their starters to play at a high level to spark a defense that feasted on turnovers.

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