Let’s get one thing out of the way, since everybody already knows it: the Jacksonville Jaguars have won a playoff game more recently than have the Pittsburgh Steelers, which means that Myles Jack, their new starting inside linebacker, has won a playoff game more recently than the majority of his current teammates. In fact, the Jaguars’ last win was over the Steelers in 2017.
With that being said, while the Jaguars certainly had a good defense at the time, Jack is stepping into a unit with more true bonafide blue-chip talents, and that includes the guy that he’s looking forward to playing behind, defensive lineman Cameron Heyward.
“Man, you can’t put that into words. There’s times where I just go back and watch the film from last year, and he’s just ragdolling other grown men”, he told reporters this past week during OTAs about Heyward and his anticipation of being able to work with him. “To play behind him, I don’t think I’ve had too many d-tackles similar to him. He’s the man for a reason, and I’m excited to play behind him”.
And, look, that’s not nothing. The Jaguars’ defensive linemen in 2017 included Calais Campbell and Malik Jackson, with Yannick Ngakoue as well.
That’s high praise for Heyward, but it’s also deserved, and earned. And that’s especially so given that he has continued to play at such a high level into his 30s. He had arguably the best season of his career in 2021 at the age of 32, playing every game, and he hasn’t given any indications that he is winding down.
Last season, he became the second lineman in team history to record multiple seasons of 10-plus sacks, joining Keith Williams. He also recorded a career-high nine batted passes, and got his second interception in as many years.
Now going into the 2022 season with the knowledge that Stephon Tuitt isn’t coming back, that puts even more focus on Heyward—or it would, if it were not for the fact that he also had to play not only without Tuitt but also Tyson Alualu last year. And he still put up exceptional numbers.
At least Alualu will be back this year, and they have better reinforced their defensive line depth from last season, so one can only hope that the inside linebacker play will have cleaner alleys to work in. Of course, he won’t be working alongside Telvin Smith, but rather Devin Bush—who was supposed to be another Telvin Smith, but is not.