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Battle for the final spots at Linebacker

#1

In the wake of Telvin Smith saying he's taking the year off football along with the release of LBs Donald Payne and Blair Brown, the Jaguars still have a slew of LBs on their roster. The first five LBs are pretty much set at this point with Myles Jack, Josh Allen, Leon Jacobs, Jake Ryan and Quincy Williams. Josh Allen is sure to be listed at LB because #41 can only be a LB's number... a DE would have to have a number in the 60s, 70s or 90s. That said, with so many remaining LBs in the battle they just might keep a 7th even though they usually keep 6. In other words, I'm thinking 6 or 7 LBs. So, we need to take a closer too at all the contenders for that final spot or two. I'll begin by listing the contenders in alphabetical order...
  • #59 DJ Alexander, Oregon State - 6-2, 233, 5th year, 27
  • #57 Nick DeLuca, North Dakota State - 6-3, 251, 2nd year, 24
  • Joe-Giles Harris, Duke - 6-2, 234, rookie, 22
  • Najee Goode, West Virginia - 6-0, 244, 8th year, 29
  • #49 Christian Kuntz, Duquesne - 6-1, 227, 1st year, 25
  • #58 James Onwualu, Notre Dame - 6-1, 235, 2nd year, 24
  • Connor Strachan, Boston College - 6-0, 230, rookie, 23
  • #45 Ramik Wilson, Georgia - 6-2, 238, 5th year, 26
With seven names here I'm leaning more toward thinking two of them make it resulting in 7 LBs. Of course, Special Teams ability is crucial toward claiming these spots. There are also four LBs among the tryout participants in today's minicamp...
  • Evan Croutch, Ohio - 6-0, 227
  • Obi Iheoma, Northwestern - 6-2, 245
  • Trevor Morris, Rutgers - 6-1, 232
  • Michael Shaw, Georgia State - 6-4, 230
As time permits I'll look deeper into each of these names. Go ahead and post anything you might have regarding any of these LBs. With any luck, we should end up with at least somewhat of a clue who these player are.
'02
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#2

#57 Nick DeLuca, North Dakota State - 6-3, 251, 2nd year, 24, from Omaha, NE (Millard North HS)

Don't count out DeLuca too quickly as he's the lone remaining incumbent LB on the list after purging the others. DeLuca even outlasted their draft pick from last year Blair Brown who they talked so glowingly about when he was drafted.

DeLuca played in 9 games last year including 2 starts collecting a dozen tackles (10 solo, 2 assists), 1 sack and 1 forced fumble.

The Titans originally picked up DeLuca as a UDFA out of ND State where he won four FCS National Championships. He was the consensus first team FCS All-American in 2017 and All-MVFC First Team in 2015 and 2017. DeLuca was waived by the Titans in the cut downs and was subsequently added to the Jaguars practice squad. He was activated to the active roster on October 22nd.

These are his 2017 senior highlights at ND State...


'02
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#3

#59 DJ Alexander, Oregon State - 6-2, 233, 5th year, 27 (turns 28 in September), from Palm Desert, CA (Palm Desert HS)

DJ has played in 56 games (1 start) over the past four seasons with the Chiefs, Seahawk and Eagles collecting 43 tackles (37 solo, 6 assists), a safety and a forced fumble. After a productive senior season at Oregon State in 2014 and an impressive Pro Day (4.5 40-yard dash), the Chiefs drafted Alexander in the 5th round (172nd overall) where his first two years were his most productive. Drafted for his speed and potential on Special Teams, Alexander soon became known as a Special Teams ace earning himself a trip to the Pro Bowl as a Special Teamer in his 2nd season after leading the Chiefs (or tying for the lead) in special teams tackles both in 2015 (13 ST tackles and a blocked punt for a safety) and 2016 (12 ST tackles). PFF named him a top ST contributor for his punt return blocking in 2016. 

After his Pro Bowl appearance, the Seahawks traded Alexander to the Seahawks for LB Kevin Pierre-Louis where he continued to rack up another 6 special teams tackles. In 2018, the Seahawks waived him in the final cut down. He was claimed the following day by the Eagles with whom he had an additional 4 special teams tackles bringing his four-year total to 35. Defensively this past season, he posted 4 tackles (3 solo, 1 assist) and a fumble recovery in 12 games played. The Eagles allowed Alexander to hit free agency, and the Jaguars picked him up May 1st as one of four new LBs signed over a couple of days.
'02
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#4

#58 James Onwualu, Notre Dame - 6-1, 235, 2nd year, 24 (turns 25 in September), from St. Paul, MN (Cretin-Derham Hall)

Onwualu was a RB in high school and then a WR for his freshman season at Notre Dame before being moved to LB for his sophomore season. After posting 75 tackles, 3 sacks and 11 1/2 TFLs his senior season, James posted some lackluster combine stats including a 4.76 40-yard dash and a 7.25 3-cone. In 2017, the Chargers picked him as an undrafted free agent, and in 9 games he posted 8 tackles (5 solo, 2 assists, 1 special teams). The 49ers signed him in November this past season, and he played in 5 games all on Special Teams posting 2 special teams tackles and a forced fumble. The 49ers waived Onwualu on April 29th, and the Jaguars claimed him off waivers the following day.

The following video is from his 2016 senior season at Notre Dame...


'02
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#5

#45 Ramik Wilson, Georgia - 6-2, 238, 5th year, 26 (turns 27 in August), from Tampa, FL (Thomas Jefferson HS)

I almost overlooked Ramik as the Jaguars have him listed at ILB instead of at LB with all the others. Wilson is a bit of a playmaker as you'll notice with his stats. After playing three seasons with the Chiefs followed by this past season with the Rams, Wilson has played in 45 games with 21 starts posting 147 tackles (114 solo, 33 assists, 5 special teams), 5 passes defended, 1 INT, 2 forced fumbles, and 5 fumble recoveries including 2 returned for a TD.  This past season playing in every game with the Rams including 4 starts, he posted 35 tackles (22 solo, 9 assists, 4 special teams), 2 passes defended, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery.

At Georgia, Wilson moved into the starting lineup as a Junior when he led the SEC with 133 tackles while posting 3 passes defended and 4 sacks and was named first-team all-SEC. As a senior he posted another 110 tackles, 1 pass defended, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery. He posted a 4.77 40-yard dash, a 35" vert, a 7.39 3-cone and did 23 reps on the bench at his combine. The Chiefs drafted Wilson in the 4th round (118th overall) as the 12th LB selected in 2015.

The following is an interesting interview from midway through this 2015 rookie season with the Chiefs...


'02
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#6

You've essentially got 5 guys battling for one or two spots behind:
Myles, Quincy W, Jake Ryan and probably Leon Jacobs.

I think they'd still like to play Jack in the middle if one of these guys shows he's got the wheels and brain to play will until Williams is ready.

If none of them rise to the top as a WLB candidate, I imagine they just keep the best ST guy(s) with some flexibility and put Jack at will (unless Williams is ready to start there quickly.)

The only one that seems to have the speed this team covets at the WLB spot is Alexander.
The others all seem either slow or really green. (ie: Onwualu)
Alexander doesn't have any real gametime experience playing 4-3 will, but he's been around the league long enough to learn about it - including a year in Seattle in a similar scheme. Still a longshot IMO.

tldr:  they're gonna' either keep a will linebacker or just the best ST guy(s) if a good will candidate doesn't emerge
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#7

(05-11-2019, 08:54 AM)NYC4jags Wrote: You've essentially got 5 guys battling for one or two spots behind:
Myles, Quincy W, Jake Ryan and probably Leon Jacobs.

I think they'd still like to play Jack in the middle if one of these guys shows he's got the wheels and brain to play will until Williams is ready.

If none of them rise to the top as a WLB candidate, I imagine they just keep the best ST guy(s) with some flexibility and put Jack at will (unless Williams is ready to start there quickly.)

The only one that seems to have the speed this team covets at the WLB spot is Alexander.
The others all seem either slow or really green. (ie: Onwualu)
Alexander doesn't have any real gametime experience playing 4-3 will, but he's been around the league long enough to learn about it - including a year in Seattle in a similar scheme. Still a longshot IMO.

tldr:  they're gonna' either keep a will linebacker or just the best ST guy(s) if a good will candidate doesn't emerge


I'm thinking it's more like 8 guys competing for 2 spots. So far I'm most impressed with DeLuca and feel he just might retain his roster spot leaving only one spot as a free-for-all to fight for.
'02
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