Paul Posluszny's retirement has Jags asking: 'What would Poz do?'

Retired linebacker Paul Posluszny set high standards in Jacksonville, totaling 973 tackles (according to the team, the second most in franchise history), 11 interceptions, 13.0 sacks and four forced fumbles over seven seasons. AP Photo/Alastair Grant

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Replacing retired middle linebacker Paul Posluszny seems to be pretty straightforward for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Myles Jack, who started at strongside linebacker and played in the middle in nickel situations last season, moves into the middle full time. Blair Brown and Donald Payne are competing to be the starter at strongside linebacker.

In reality, replacing Posluszny is a monumental task. How do you step in for a guy who knew the defense intimately, seemed to be in the right spot at the right moment every time, made calls and adjustments on the field in seconds, and -- according to Jack, anyway -- never made a mistake?

Wait. Never? Pretty much.

"It was rare -- and I mean RARE in all capital letters -- if he made a mistake," Jack said. "That's the standard, especially playing Mike [middle linebacker], having to know everything and tell everybody what to do and then doing your own job. He was very good at it."

Posluszny did it for seven seasons in Jacksonville -- after four seasons in Buffalo -- and amassed 973 tackles (according to the Jaguars, and the total ranks second most in franchise history), intercepted 11 passes, recorded 13.0 sacks and forced four fumbles. He missed only 12 games because of injuries (nine with a torn pectoral muscle in 2014) and was a defensive captain for five seasons.

He also was the perfect role model for young players when they entered the NFL. He was at the facility before every other player pretty much every day -- even in the offseason. He knew the playbook inside and out. He killed it in the weight room -- the plaque on the wall that recognizes the offseason workout champion has his name all over it -- and he rarely missed practice.

Posluszny also was an immense resource for the linebackers. Jack remembers leaving meetings the past two years and heading straight for Posluszny with a list of questions. So did Telvin Smith, whom Posluszny took under his wing after the Jaguars drafted Smith in 2014.

Smith and Posluszny became very close over the past four years, and the depth of Smith's respect for Posluszny was evident during his tearful and emotional speech at Posluszny's retirement news conference in April. That's why it was hard for Smith when the players reported for offseason conditioning without Posluszny.

"It's tough," Smith said. "But I promise everybody that it still feels like he is here in the sense. His presence is what is felt more than anything."

That's because they still talk about Posluszny -- in the locker room, meeting room and on the practice field. They remember what he would say in certain situations, what calls he would make, and how he would act. Whenever they encounter something about which they're not sure, they always ask the same thing: What would Poz do?

That might make for a good bracelet.

"Everybody still talks about him," Smith said. "'What would he do in this situation?' Or 'Poz would say this,' or 'Poz would do that.' We still talk about him just like he is here."

That might sound a little strange, but Jack says it's the best way to make the correct decision.

"He was the alpha dog in the linebacker room," Jack said. "He was the voice. If we didn't know something we would look to him. If it was a decision to be made, we would look to him and get his opinion on it or anything. He was first in line when we asked questions.

"Now it's kind of like, OK, you see how Poz handled himself, the decisions he made, try to emulate that because the decisions he made were the best ones and they were unselfish and they were best for the team. So that's what I try to emulate."

Brown and Payne are in their second seasons with the Jaguars, so they played with Posluszny for one year, but that was enough to understand just how much he meant to the defense. Though Jack and Smith are now the experienced veterans, Brown said the players still measure themselves against Posluszny.

"Poz is the standard of what we want our linebackers to be," Brown said.

Coach Doug Marrone said Posluszny being gone is a blow, but he likes what he has seen so far from Brown and Payne and several other young linebackers in organized team activities.

"When he [Posluszny] is around the team and around the players -- especially the younger players -- they can look and see by example how to do things in the NFL," Marrone said. "... But I'm looking at it like it's an opportunity for these other players, these young players out there. I'm watching them. A couple of those guys -- I thought Donald Payne, Brooks Ellis and Deon King -- I thought those guys seem like they are moving better than they did last year. That's a good sign."

The hope is that eventually everyone stops asking what Posluszny would do -- either because it's already second nature or because players such as Smith and Jack have become the standard-bearer.

"Last year and the year before, I'm looking at Poz when we break the defensive meetings and trying to catch up to him and ask him a question real quick," Jack said. "Now it's the opposite. It's like young guys are coming up to me and asking me questions.

"It's kind of like now I've graduated to that role."