Posluszny: LBs need more big plays

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Not many guys were happier that the Jacksonville Jaguars upgraded their defensive line in free agency and the draft than middle linebacker Paul Posluszny.

The additions of defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant and defensive tackle Ziggy Hood in free agency, as well as defensive tackle Roy Miller being healthy, are an important part of what Posluszny said is one of his main goals for the 2014 season: Having the linebackers make more big plays.

"It’s going to be enormous," Posluszny said. "When you look at the great linebackers in the NFL, the guys who are the top guys -- the guys in San Francisco, [Luke] Kuechly in Carolina -- when you look at their D-line, you're not going to have a great linebacker who makes a lot of plays unless you have guys in front of you that are playing dominant football.

"We feel like we have that opportunity. When you line up and you have the opportunity to line up behind Roy Miller right here and Red Bryant right next to him, that’s a great situation for us. We feel like they’re going to put pressure on the quarterback, they’re going to make things happen, and that means more plays and more opportunities for everyone behind them."

Posluszny didn’t have any trouble making big plays last season. He was second in the NFL with 162 tackles and had three sacks, two interceptions, 9 passes defensed (second on the team), one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

The problem is that Posluszny didn't get a lot of help from his fellow linebackers. Geno Hayes, Russell Allen, J.T. Thomas, LaRoy Reynolds, and John Lotulelei combined for two sacks, two interceptions, five passes defensed, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. Granted, Hayes played much of the season with a knee injury that eventually required surgery, but the linebackers need to be more productive if the defense is going to improve.

"We feel that we have a really good group that can get the job done," Posluszny said. "Now I know we need to make some plays. We need to have an impact on this defense because you look at the guys that we have around us and you say, 'Wow, our D-line has the opportunity to be pretty good. Our secondary has another year under their belt [and] they have the ability to make some plays.' The same needs to be said about the linebacking corps.

"We want to be a group that is highly reliable, dependable, and can make some plays to help our team win."

The Jaguars also signed Dekoda Watson in free agency and drafted Telvin Smith to try to find additional playmakers at linebacker. Watson hasn’t practiced in camp because he is recovering from a second sports hernia surgery but the Jaguars expect him to fill the newly-created Otto spot. Adding Smith in the fifth round addresses another weakness at linebacker: a lack of speed.

Saturday night’s scrimmage will be the first real chance to see if the unit is going to be any better in 2014.

"They just have to show up more as far as bigger plays, sacks, stripping the ball, picks, those types of things," defensive coordinator Bob Babich said. "Even though the linebacker unit has done a good job, Poz's standard is extremely high, which is great. He just feels like they have to get better."