The fourth of a nine-part series previewing the Jaguars and their talent at each position.
Had Paul Posluszny not retired in March, Myles Jack would be preparing to make another big impact at strong-side linebacker.
But Posluszny is adjusting to life after football and Jack is at middle linebacker, just as he was during the start of last season's training camp.
This time, he hopes for better results. Throughout training camp and into the preseason last year, Jack struggled to get off blocks quickly and had a tendency to overpursue plays while playing middle linebacker.
By Week 2 of the preseason, defensive coordinator Todd Wash and coach Doug Marrone scrapped their plans. They moved Posluszny back to the middle from strong-side linebacker in their base defense and shifted Jack back to strong-side.
When the Jaguars used five defensive backs in their nickel package, Posluszny came out of the game and Jack remained on the field with weak-side linebacker Telvin Smith.
It worked out well enough for the Jaguars’ defense to finish No. 2 in the NFL behind Minnesota in fewest yards allowed (286.1) and points per game (16.8).
Now, they’re hoping for similar results without Posluszny and Jack taking on the new role as the full-time middle linebacker entering his third season with the team.
''I’ve got to take that next step in my career and fully become a pro,’’ said Jack, the Jaguars’ second-leading tackler last season with 90. ‘’I’ve got to take all the responsibility.
‘’Last season, I just had the nickel responsibility of playing Mike, but we played a heavy amount of nickel. I just got to make sure I’m solid and we should be fine.’’
Jack was limited in offseason work because Marrone wanted to take the cautious approach to allow Jack time to gradually build up his conditioning to avoid any injury setbacks.
Jack is expected to be a full go when training camp opens on July 26.
"He is fantastic in the pass game,’’ Wash said. ‘’But just the adjustments of playing inside in the run game, we will get all of that when we get into training camp nine-on-seven, and we will really be able to hone in on the run responsibilities for Myles.”
Jack will have to figure out a lot on his own without Posluszny, who extended him guidance last season.
Smith said he’ll offer whatever help Jack needs, but admits it’s different not having Posluszny around to lean on. Posluszny retired after 11 seasons - the past seven with the Jaguars - because he felt he could no longer compete at the level that he finds acceptable.
''We still talk about him just like he is here,’’ said Smith, the Jaguars’ leading tackler last season with 102. ''(Now) I’m the oldest guy in the room. That is crazy going into my fifth year. You have to understand that these younger guys, they have seen you play a lot of snaps on Sunday, so they just want to ask me and pick my brain.’’
The biggest uncertainty on the defensive unit is at strong-side linebacker. Second-year players Blair Brown, Donald Payne and seventh-round draft pick Leon Jacobs are expected to be in a tight battle for the starting job.
Brown appears to be the front-runner, but he didn’t emerge ahead of the pack during organized team activities or minicamp.
“We will let that shake out once we get into training camp,’’ Wash said. ''There is a good competition at that linebacker spot for our depth. We feel that we have six or seven guys that can really play.’’