By Hays Carlyon
Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack faces a life-changing season this fall.
He knows it.
A big season for himself and the team could result in a major payday for the fourth-year veteran as he plays the final year of his rookie contract.
Jack, amazingly still just 23-years-old, has high expectations for the Jaguars and himself this season. He spoke about several topics during Tuesday’s Back to School Bowling Bash at the Main Event that entertained 120 children. The Jaguars stumbled last season to a 5-11 record following a 3-1 start and 2017 AFC Championship Game appearance.
“I feel like we’re going to shock a lot of people,” Jack said. “We’re in the perfect position. Nobody is thinking about us outside of Duval. For me, I want 150 tackles. I want to make game-changing plays and leave a thumbprint on every single game.”
Jack started his quest to be a more impactful player this off-season. After talking to Jaguars Pro-Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell, Jack realized he had to focus more on his diet.
“At the top of the break, I was with Calais and we were talking about eating.” Jack said. “I said that’s the one thing I haven’t done. He yelled at me being the big brother that he is. I hooked up with a local chef in Jacksonville. I’ve been eating healthy and I can feel the difference. I haven’t felt bloated or anything. No dairy, it’s been all organic vegetables. I feel like that’s going to give me an edge this season.”
Jack recorded 107 tackles last season, his first full season as the three-down middle linebacker. The game-changing plays were lacking. Jack had 2 ½ sacks with one interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery.
The experience Jack received last season should make him react faster this fall. The scheme remains unchanged with defensive coordinator Todd Wash returning.
“My goal is to become like a second coach on the field,” Jack said. “I want to be an extension of Coach Wash. Knowing where everyone is supposed to be, knowing what he would call in certain situations and understanding what offense are running. Expanding my game to the full point. I feel like I’m more than ready to do that now. I learned a lot from last year. I’m ready to become that total player that Jacksonville needs.”
Leadership will also be an area Jack has to deliver more. In the past two off-seasons, the Jaguars have lost two Pro-Bowl linebackers — Paul Posluszny (retired in 2018) and Telvin Smith (self-imposed absence in 2019). Jack could be starting alongside second-year strongside linebacker Leon Jacobs with third-round rookie Quincy Williams on the weakside.
“I’m thankful I got drafted to a team where I could learn from two true professionals,” Jack said. “Now the time has come for me to grow up and be the man in the group. That’s what I’m embracing. There’s a lot of weight on my shoulders but I’m ready for the responsibility.”
Jack says he remains close with Smith, who stunned many by choosing to sit out the season and forego his $9.75-million salary. Smith announced his decision in May.
“He’s been good,” Jack said. “I chop it up with him every once in a while. He’s really been focusing on himself and his family. He’s doing great. He’s got a smile on his face. I’ve seen him multiple times throughout the break. The decision he made, just know he’s making the best decision for himself.”
The Jaguars defense is also waiting to find out what happens with fourth-year end Yannick Ngakoue, another Pro-Bowl player. The Jaguars and Ngakoue are in negotiations over a lucrative contract extension that has resulted in Ngakoue choosing to hold out as training camp begins. Like Jack, Ngakoue is entering the final year of his rookie contract.
“The day Yon gets his deal done, there’s going to be a party,” Jack said. “I’m going to tackle him. We’re going to be laughing. I can see that day and it puts a smile on my face. That guy deserves to get paid. He’s put up great numbers. I’m sure the Jags and him will finally come to a conclusion and get that done because it’s necessary for us to have Yannick on the field.”
(You can email Hays at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @HaysCarlyon)