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‘He’s Understanding His Role’: How Devin Lloyd Is Playing Like a Top Linebacker Thus Far

The rookie first-round pick is one of the main reasons for the Jaguars' defensive success.
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When the Jacksonville Jaguars took Devin Lloyd with the No. 27 overall pick last April, they did so with the intention of him becoming an impact player on the defense for years to come. 

Through three games it is evident that the Jaguars made the right choice.

In only three career games, Pro Football Focus ranks Lloyd seventh among linebackers with a 78.2 overall grade. He has been especially disruptive in the running game, with his 88.5 grade on run defense ranking second at the position. To put the cherry on top, Lloyd is tied for the lead among rookies with 2 interceptions and leads all rookies with 24 tackles and 6 passes defended.

With this torrid start to the season, it comes as no surprise that Lloyd is PFF’s highest-graded defensive rookie. He has seamlessly transitioned into his role as a starter, something that has the Jaguars coaching staff excited in the early going.

“I think he’s fitting into the scheme, fitting into the defense,” Pederson said following Sunday's 38-10 win over the Chargers. “He’s understanding his role. I challenge the guys each week to understand the gameplan and understand their job and how they can fit. He’s doing that. Obviously, these games are valuable for him. He’s settling in. [He’s a ] tremendous player. He had a heck of a pass deflection down the field late. He’s a good football player, kind of settling into his role.”

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In the Jaguars' blowout victory over the Chargers, Lloyd made his presence felt. His interception was one of two early turnovers that helped turn the tide of this game. As a unit, this Jaguars defense has a pennant for forcing turnovers and is something they strive to be known for.

“I believe so,” Pederson said on Sunday when asked about the defense setting the tone early. 

“Something we talk about quite a bit is creating the turnovers with the defensive unit. We started the game again today with a couple of turnovers. We didn’t get the points off of them - I would have loved to have gotten a touchdown off, especially the one down deep in the red zone. Listen, the defense, if they keep creating turnovers like they’re doing, obviously it helps the football team and it helps the offense so we can score points, good things will continue to happen.”

Star-level production from Devin Lloyd has been a major catalyst for a revitalized Jaguars defensive unit and a huge culprit for why this team is sitting at 2-1 through the first three weeks of the season. It is still too early to predict, but with the way the Jags have been performing, there is growing sentiment that they may have turned the corner.

“I think it’s still too early to tell,” Pederson said. “I’m just so proud of these guys. The way they work during the week, they’re beginning to see just what it takes to win in this league. It takes the hard work and preparation. They’re starting to come together as a football team and that’s all I can ask for. They played extremely hard. What I told them after the game is that if they continue to do these little things right, good things can happen to this football team. Today was an example of that.”