Linebacker position may change significantly for Jaguars in 2016

Each day for the next two weeks we’ll review how each position group for the Jacksonville Jaguars performed in 2015 as well as take an early look at 2016. Tuesday we’ll examine the linebackers. We’ve already done quarterback, running back, tight end, wide receiver, offensive line and defensive line.


Breakdown of starts: Telvin Smith (14), Paul Posluszny (14), Dan Skuta (9), Thurston Armbrister (3), Hayes Pullard III (2), Jordan Tripp (1).

Recap: Posluszny led the Jaguars in tackles (again) with 133 despite missing two games because of ankle and hand injuries. He also had three interceptions, more than any player on the team other than CB Davon House (four). Posluszny's worth to the defense is so much more than numbers, though. He’s responsible for getting the calls from the sideline, making adjustments and communicating them on the field. The Jaguars struggled with that in the two games he missed. Smith missed the final two games with a separated shoulder but still racked up 128 tackles, 2.5 sacks, a team-high 13 tackles for loss (tied with Posluszny), an interception, and two forced fumbles. He plays weakside linebacker and is able to use his speed to make plays on the other side of the formation on a regular basis. He struggles somewhat in coverage, however. The Jaguars signed Skuta to play their Otto linebacker spot -- a strongside linebacker that rushes or drops into coverage based on the defense. He needed some time to adjust but was getting into a rhythm until a groin injury forced him to be inactive for three games in a four-week span in November. The Jaguars were planning on giving him some snaps at the Leo (pass-rushing end) before his injury but never did because Skuta still battled the injury throughout the rest of the season.

Looking ahead to 2016

Players under contract: Smith, Posluszny, Skuta, Armbrister, Pullard, Tripp.

The skinny: The Jaguars need to upgrade their speed at this position, and that will mean additions in free agency and the draft. That could give this position group a whole new look in 2016. Smith is entrenched, but Posluszny’s role will likely change to a two-down linebacker where he will come off the field on third down. What the Jaguars opt to do with Skuta will be interesting, too. They can keep him at Otto, but they also may again try to give some reps at Leo.