When the Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) award conversation is brought up, the attention is instantly brought to players such as Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack, Von Miller, and so on. Rightfully so, as these are some of the best players in the NFL.
Middle linebacker is a position that is often slept on for this discussion, as only five players have won defensive player of the year for a total of seven times. These players are Luke Kuechly in 2013, Brian Urlacher in 2005, Ray Lewis in 2003 and 2000, Mike Singletary in 1988 and 1985, and Jack Lambert in 1976. There are three possible middle linebacker candidates for 2018 that potentially could take this award home, and one of them belong to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jaguars have never had a player win DPOY, so it’s a big task if Myles Jack wants to become the sixth middle linebacker to win this award. Jack came in with high expectations and to remain healthy after the Jaguars stole him in the 2016 NFL Draft with the 36th overall pick.
In 2017, Jack had an exceptional season that ended in him having started all 16 games, 66 total-tackles, four run stuffs, three pass deflections, and one fumble recovery which he brought to the house for an 81-yard touchdown. These aren’t DPOY caliber stats, however, for a second-year player that only played 10 games his rookie year, this is a step in the right direction for a breakout season.
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To put it in perspective, here’s the stat line for Luke Kuechly, who was the most recent middle linebacker to win this award in 2013. Kuechly played all 16 games and finished with 96 total-tackles, eight pass deflections, four interceptions, two sacks, selected for the Pro Bowl, and was selected as a first-team All-Pro. This is a realistic milestone for Jack to reach.
Jack is an athletic, fast, smart, and disciplined player. Not only is he a star for an elite Jaguars defense, who finished second in the NFL for fewest total-net-yards allowed in 2017, Jack has become a leader of this young and talented group.
With a hot start against the New York Giants, Myles Jack already has 7 total-tackles, one pass deflection, and one interception which he took for a touchdown. While the Jaguars are tied for the 25th easiest schedule based on 2017 win percentages, Jack will have a lot to prove playing against top-tier offenses consisting of the Patriots, Chiefs, Eagles, and Steelers.
There’s certainly a challenge coming Jack’s way, and if he can capitalize on it and have a breakout year, he’s a potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate. It’s a matter of playing consistent and staying healthy.