In only a few weeks, the 2020 NFL Draft will at last commence. This year's draft will obviously be dramatically different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced the draft to become a completely virtual event. But nonetheless, the show marches on.
While we gear up in preparation for the draft, we will be looking at each position group on the Jacksonville Jaguars' roster to gauge where it stands before this month's draft. Which groups need more attention, and which appear to be set?
In this edition, we take a look at the Jaguars' linebacker group, which has gained a big addition in inside linebacker Joe Schobert. What kind of upgrades can the Jaguars continue to look for, and who do they have already in Jacksonville?
What the Jaguars have said about the group
"We have two guys there that we like in Myles [Jack] and Quincy [Williams]. Dakota Allen is another guy we feel can come in, we got him from the Rams late in the year. He is a physical guy, he did a nice job on special teams," general manager Dave Caldwell said on Feb. 25. "We actually have four guys there plus Leon Jacobs as our SAM. We have some depth there that we have not had in the past. If we can get a guy to come in and if we need to move Myles … Myles offers so much flexibility, whether it’s MIKE, WILL, he played SAM in 2017. We feel good about that. Quincy from a mismatch standpoint, from a game-planning standpoint, Quincy can do a lot on third down, whether it is blitzing, covering a back, covering a tight end. He basically played safety in college.”
"Myles Jack is able to play really all three positions and play them all we feel at a high level. When it showed itself that we could get a player with the caliber of [Joe] Schobert, we went along and did that," head coach Doug Marrone said on March 31. "We feel that we bettered ourselves at two positions. I talked to Myles, he’s excited about it. He will move to the WILL linebacker position. Quincy [Williams] will back him up. Joe will be in the middle. Obviously, we have Leon [Jacobs] at SAM and Cassius Marsh is another player we acquired that can play that position and also give us some rush. That is where we are with the linebacker position and we still have a lot of work to do from the standpoint of depth and competition along all three positions."
Who the Jaguars have lost in 2020
The two biggest contributors at linebacker from 2019 that are currently left off of the Jaguars' roster are Najee Goode and Donald Payne. Each started games for the Jaguars' defense in 2019, but thus far neither has been re-signed in free agency.
Goode was the elder of the Jaguars' linebacker room in 2019, as the eighth-year linebacker was by far the oldest and most seasoned member of the unit throughout the season. Goode started four games for Jacksonville at weakside linebacker as rookie Quincy Williams continued to develop, but thus far it appears the Jaguars are moving on without him.
As for Payne, he took over at inside linebacker for veteran Myles Jack when a knee injury ended Jack's season toward the final quarter mark of the 16-game season. Payne collected 61 tackles over nine games (five starts) last year, but the Jaguars seem to want a different option for depth at inside linebacker moving forward into 2020.
Who the Jaguars currently have at the position
Myles Jack: 24-years-old, 53 career starts. Entering fifth season. 66 tackles, three tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, four pass deflections, and one interception in 2019.
Quincy Williams: 23-years-old, eight career starts. Entering second season. 48 tackles, two tackles for loss in 2019.
Joe Schobert: 26-years-old, 49 career starts. Entering fifth season. 133 tackles, seven tackles for loss, two sacks, nine pass deflections, four interceptions, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.
Leon Jacobs: 24-years-old, 10 career starts. Entering third season. 42 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, and one pass deflection in 2019.
Cassius Marsh: 27-years-old, eight career starts. Entering seventh season. 36 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks in 2019.
Austin Calitro: 26-years-old, nine career starts. Entering third season. 40 tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack, and one pass deflection in 2019.
Dakota Allen: 24-years-old, zero career starts. Entering second season. Recorded one tackle in 2019.
Joe Giles-Harris: 23-years-old, zero career starts. Entering second season. Recorded no stats in 2019.
Jack and Schobert are the two obvious headliners of this group. Two of the highest-paid linebackers in the NFL, the duo will be leaned upon heavily by defensive coordinator Todd Wash in 2020.
Jack, who will be playing weakside linebacker for the first time in five years with Jacksonville, will need to rebound from a poor 2019 season that ended in a knee injury. He had issues with run fits and consistency at middle linebacker last year, so the hope for the Jaguars is a shift outside will allow him to make more plays.
As for Schobert, he will now be the new man in the middle of the Jaguars' defense, tasked with making sure the entire defense is on the same page. He brings over solid coverage skills and above-average athleticism, but he will have to prove he is a consistent impact player against the run.
Leon Jacobs had a solid sophomore season at strongside linebacker, but now he will have legit competition when camp comes along thanks to the free agency addition of Cassius Marsh. Jacobs is stronger and a better edge-setter against the run than Marsh, but Marsh is more athletic and more of a pass-rusher. It will be interesting to see that battle play out.
Quincy Williams was a third-round pick in 2019 who is maybe the most athletic player on the entire team, and he will start off 2020 as a backup to Jack at weakside linebacker. He was still transitioning to a linebacker role in 2019 after playing safety in college, so it is fair to have expected him to have ups and downs in 2019. Now, Williams will have a year under his belt as he looks to make a sophomore jump.
The Jaguars are high on both Austin Calitro and Dakota Allen as depth options, while Joe Giles-Harris spent all of 2019 with the team and will be a familiar face for the defensive coaching staff.
The Jaguars appear set at the weakside and strongside linebacker positions, as well as starting middle linebacker, but the draft could present an opportunity to bring in more depth at middle linebacker, ideally in the later rounds.
Linebacker isn't a serious need for the Jaguars in 2020, but they will need Jack to have a bounce-back year in a major way if they hope for the defense to take a step forward.