Stat check: Linebacker help needed

July, 16, 2014
Jul 16
3:00
PM ET
Each day this week I'll take a look at a stat that will play a key role for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014. It could be something the team must improve or something the team did well that must continue. It will go beyond just the basic stats and provide a more in-depth look at the team.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny had another good season in 2013, earning a trip as a Pro Bowl alternate after finishing second in the NFL with 161 tackles.

He was the Jaguars' best defensive player and while he said he didn't make enough big plays, he did produce his share: three sacks, two interceptions, 10 passes defensed (second on the team), seven QB pressures, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

Posluszny
However, Posluszny didn't get a lot of help from his fellow linebackers. That has to change if the defense is going to be better than it was last season.

Geno Hayes, Russell Allen, J.T. Thomas, LaRoy Reynolds and John Lotulelei combined for two sacks, two interceptions, four passes defensed, four QB pressures, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Granted, Hayes played much of the season with a knee injury that eventually required surgery, but the linebackers need to be more productive if the defense is going to improve.

The Jaguars have taken steps to address that. They signed Dekoda Watson in free agency and moved him into the newly-created otto position, which is essentially another defensive end/linebacker hybrid with more emphasis on the linebacker skills. The otto will line up close to the line of scrimmage and depending on the defense called can rush the passer, drop in coverage or play as a traditional linebacker. Reynolds also worked at that spot during OTAs and minicamp after Watson suffered a groin injury during workouts, but Watson is expected to be cleared when training camp begins.

The position allows the Jaguars to have a fifth rusher without having to sub, which can create confusion among the offensive line. The line has to account for him in the blocking scheme, which should create openings and mismatches elsewhere.

In addition, the Jaguars drafted Telvin Smith in the fifth round to help shore up another weakness at linebacker: a lack of speed. Smith is undersized (218 pounds) but can really run and he's going to get playing time for as long as he holds up physically.

These changes and additions will hopefully give Posluszny the help he needs.

Mike DiRocco | email

ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter

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