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On to '22: Linebackers


JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and Jaguars/NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks examine the Jaguars' linebacker position in this position-by-position look at the '22 offseason.

Position: Linebackers.

Position coach: Tony Gilbert.

2021 starters: Myles Jack (15), Damien Wilson (17), Dakota Allen (1), Chapelle Russell (1).

Others: Tyrell Adams, Jamir Jones, Dylan Moses, Shaquille Quarterman, Elijah Sullivan.

2021 at a glance: The Jaguars' move in 2021 to a three-lineman, four-linebacker scheme meant changes everywhere along the front seven – and it meant two inside linebackers playing in the Jaguars' base defense rather than one middle linebacker in the four-three scheme. Wilson, who signed as an unrestricted free agent from the Kansas City Chiefs in the '21 offseason, started 17 games at the inside "mike" linebacker position and was one of the defense's most consistent and productive players: 104 tackles, five tackles for loss, three sacks, five pressures and five passes defensed with a forced fumble and an interception. Jack, a second-round selection by the Jaguars in the 2016 NFL Draft and the defense's most-tenured player last season, led the team with 108 tackles and also had three tackles for loss with two pressures. The Jaguars improved against the run last season, allowing 125.1 yards per game and ranking 24th in the NFL after ranking 30th at 153.2 yards per game in 2020.

Offseason storyline: This has been an offseason of change here, with the Jaguars surprising some observers not only by allowing Wilson to sign with the Carolina Panthers as an unrestricted free agent but also by releasing Jack. The release of Jack meant no defensive players remain on the roster from the 2017 AFC South championship team. The team made a major move to address the position in free agency, signing Foye Oluokun from the Atlanta Falcons as an unrestricted free agent. Oluokun led the NFL in tackles last season, and his 192 credited tackles was ranked by some among the top 10 season-tackles total in NFL history. Moses, who signed with the Jaguars as a collegiate free agent following the 2021 NFL Draft, was waived by the team Tuesday. Quarterman also has played extensively as a reserve the last two seasons.

Bucky Brooks' top linebacker prospects: Devin Lloyd, Utah; Nakobe Dean, Georgia; Christian Harris, Alabama; Troy Anderson, Montana State; Chad Muma, Wyoming.

Offseason acquisitions: Oluokun (Falcons).

Offseason departures: Jack (Pittsburgh Steelers), Wilson (Carolina Panthers).

Oehser analysis: This remains a position of interest in the offseason, with the Jaguars having addressed one inside linebacker position in a major way by signing Oluokun and having created a major storyline at the other insider backer position by releasing Jack and allowing Wilson to leave as an unrestricted free agent. Oluokun is a productive tackler and a smart leader who is expected to call the defensive signals, something Wilson handled much of last season. The Jaguars again will run a 3-4 defense under new coordinator Mike Caldwell, but it will be a hybrid scheme with both 3-4 and 4-3 looks at times in the base defense. The Jaguars have multiple options for the position next to Oluokun, with Quarterman a possibility among players already on the roster. It's also a position that could be addressed in second-wave veteran free agency or in the middle rounds of the draft.

Brooks analysis: It is hard to complain about the performance and production of the Jaguars' linebacker corps a season ago. Jack and Wilson put up solid numbers as "run-and-chase" defenders behind an inconsistent frontline that failed to keep them clean at the point of attack. Despite their efforts, the Jaguars are moving on with a new crew at the position after releasing Jack and allowing Wilson to walk as a free agent. The addition of Oluokun adds a speedster to the lineup with outstanding instincts and playmaking ability. He should make an immediate impact as a tackling machine with the range to track down runners from sideline to sideline. Quarterman has earned the right to challenge for a starting position, but the Jaguars could turn to the draft to find another instinctive linebacker with the length and athleticism to create problems against the run and pass. With the team transitioning to a hybrid scheme with 3-4 and 4-3 principles, adding a few versatile, impact linebackers should be a top priority over draft weekend.

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