JACKSONVILLE – The stars were out, and they shined brightly.
That was true for the Jaguars throughout the postseason that just ended. It was true again last week at the 2018 Pro Bowl, which inspired the following question:
Who is the Jaguars' next bright star? Their next Pro Bowl player?
This writer's thought? Myles Jack.
The second-year linebacker not only moved into a full-time role this season, he did so while taking on the added responsibility of calling defensive signals. He got more comfortable as the season continued, and by the postseason was making plays at the level many expected when he was considered a potential Top 5 selection in the 2016 NFL Draft.
"Obviously, we saw a lot from last year coming to this year," Pro Bowl weak-side linebacker Telvin Smith said of Jack last week. "Just he as a player – he showed growth."
Jack obviously isn't the only young Jaguars player with Pro Bowl potential. When Smith and Pro Bowl cornerback A.J. Bouye were asked at the Pro Bowl last week to name the non-Pro Bowl Jaguars player most likely to make the game next season, they mentioned running back Leonard Fournette along with safety Tashaun Gipson, Jack and safety Barry Church. Wide receiver Allen Robinson, a Pro Bowl selection in 2015, also has the potential to return, as do players such as center Brandon Linder, and potentially left tackle Cam Robinson.
So, why single out Jack?
Because he had the feel throughout the postseason of a player coming into his own. His rare combination of speed and athleticism showed more and more as the season went on. He turned in one of the postseason's key plays with an early interception in the Jaguars' Divisional Playoff victory at Pittsburgh, and his fourth-quarter strip-fumble in the AFC Championship Game loss to New England was a premature whistle from being perhaps the biggest play in franchise history.
"From the beginning of the year to the end of the year, calling plays for the first time and having to use his voice and be the quarterback of the defense – that's hard for anybody doing it for the first time," Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell said. "He grew a lot. His confidence and how quick he relays the message. He's really grown a lot.
"I'm looking forward to seeing that Year 2 growth. This was only Year 1, and as well as he did, he's only getting better. That's going to be a big reason why we're going to be successful."
The Jaguars' defense already is loaded with ascending players. Not only did Smith and Bouye make their first Pro Bowls this past season, defensive tackle Malik Jackson, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue and cornerback Jalen Ramsey did, too.
The guess here is Jack can join them at that level next season. If so, that's one more star on a defense with an increasingly remarkable number of players shining brightly.
Images from Jaguars players during the 2018 Pro Bowl game in Orlando, Florida.
Much of our jaguars.com Super Bowl coverage this week will focus on Saturday's vote for the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame class. We'll catch up with Hall voters regarding the chances of former Jaguars left tackle Tony Boselli, who gained momentum in the process last year by being one of the final 10 candidates. Boselli, the first player selected by the Jaguars in their first draft in 1995 and a member of the NFL's 1990s All-Decade team, has been a Hall semifinalist the past three years. This is his second consecutive year as one of 15 modern-era finalists. Five modern-era finalists typically are elected, with voting to take place Saturday and the 2018 Hall class announced during the league's NFL Honors show that airs Saturday at 9 p.m. on NBC.
"In the history of this game, when a team falls short like this, it adds motivation. Guys work a little bit harder. Last year we worked very hard already, but when you're going through your offseason plans and you think about this situation, you want to just have a little bit more – have a little more juice, be in a little better shape, be a little tougher, be a little stronger. This should definitely motivate the guys to push a little harder. We're going to push ourselves. We're motivated."