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Move outside 'biggest challenge' of Jaguars LB Paul Posluszny's career

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Paul Posluszny smiled and said all the right things, but it wasn’t hard to tell that he was apprehensive about his new job with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Posluszny moves from middle linebacker -- where he’s played his entire 10-year NFL career -- to strongside linebacker to make room for second-year player Myles Jack, the Jaguars’ second-round draft pick in 2016. Posluszny has never played that spot, and his unease at the transition was clearly evident on Tuesday afternoon.

"It’s going to be the biggest challenge of my career," he said. "For 10 years I’ve played middle linebacker. My entire perspective of how to play football in the NFL, my entire identity, has been that, and now that’s not the case."

Posluszny played at a high level in 2016 (team-high 133 tackles, 1.5 sacks and an interception). So high, in fact, that Jack, who was drafted as Posluszny’s eventual replacement, was unable to get on the field at middle linebacker. He ended up moving to strongside linebacker and played just 230 snaps.

But the Jaguars want Jack on the field on all three downs, and that meant Posluszny, who turns 33 in October, had to move outside.

"The biggest thing for me is, the decision was made and they said, ‘This is what’s going to be what’s best for the team.’ And that’s great, because if it’s going to help us win, it’s going to help us win," Posluszny said. "The thing for me is that then I look at it and say, ‘Well, that means I didn’t play at a high enough level to keep that job.’

"It’s my fault, and I don’t have anybody to blame but myself. If I would have played better last year then maybe we wouldn’t be having this conversation, but that’s not the case. Moving forward, [he will] make the adjustment, and do the best job I can."

Posluszny has been a middle linebacker since he was drafted in the second round of the 2007 draft. He spent four seasons with the Bills before signing with the Jaguars in 2011. The only time he didn’t play in the middle in his football career came in his first three seasons at Penn State, when he lined up at weakside linebacker. The duties there are similar to middle linebacker, but that’s not the case at strongside linebacker.

Posluszny will now line up closer to the ball, often adjacent to the tight end, instead of 4-5 yards off the line of scrimmage. The pre-snap keys and reads are different and he’ll have more pass rush and coverage duties as well.

Weakside linebacker Telvin Smith said it will take some time for him to adjust to not seeing Posluszny next to him.

"It's going to be tough, but when he accepted it, I accepted it," Smith said. "I appreciate him. He's not a selfish person, as you all can see. And if he said that's going to make the team better and help us get to where we need to, then I'm with him all day. And with Myles coming in. We've seen what he can do in college. We've seen spurts of what he can do, so we're all looking forward to him getting out there."

Another big change: Posluszny may be off the field on third down when the Jaguars bring in a nickel back. Jack and weakside linebacker Telvin Smith would stay. It has been Posluszny and Smith on the field on third down since the Jaguars drafted Smith in the fifth round in 2014.

"That’ll be another challenge as well, but with that, if we take a linebacker off the field the best two guys are going to stay on," Posluszny said. "If I’m not one of those two guys, that’s fine. Whatever we need to do to win, let’s do it. Let’s be honest. That’s the most important thing.

"So, yeah, if I'm not good enough to stay on the field, then keep someone else on there so that we can win."

Posluszny has been one of the most productive players in Jaguars history. He has led the team in tackles in all but one of his six seasons (missing nine games with a torn pectoral in 2014) and is second in team history with 918 tackles, just 171 shy of all-time leader Daryl Smith.