JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Rookie linebacker Chad Muma could make his first start for the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens (1 pm ET, CBS)
Muma is one of the few active NFL players known to be playing with Type 1 diabetes. Another? Ravens tight end Mark Andrews, who Muma will have the chance to line up against when the Ravens travel to Jacksonville. November, by the way, is Diabetes Awareness Month.
“It’s kind of all coming together right this week,” Muma said.
Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson and defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell aren’t saying whether Muma will indeed replace fellow rookie Devin Lloyd in the starting lineup, so that may not be revealed until Sunday. But the third-round pick out of Wyoming is definitely going to be getting significantly more playing time in the final seven games.
It’s partly due to Muma’s improvement as the season has progressed but also because Lloyd, whom the Jaguars selected 27th overall, has struggled since his hot start.
“Consistency [in Muma’s play], but I think, too, it helps, sometimes, in Devin’s case, just coming out of the game and seeing it from the sidelines, seeing a little different perspective,” Pederson said. “Allowing Chad to get valuable reps, it’s a lot like Buster [CB Montaric Brown] playing and getting valuable reps at corner and seeing where Chad is with everything.
“Right now, he’s been kind of limited to special teams. He is a good linebacker, and we want to get him on the field.”
Muma got the most extensive playing time of his career in the Jaguars’ loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 13, playing a season-high 25 defensive snaps. He was on the field late in the first half and played more in the second and finished with six tackles, including four solo tackles.
Muma had played double-digit defensive snaps in only one other game (11 against the Houston Texans on Oct. 9) this season. Most of his playing time has been on special teams — he is fourth on the team with seven special teams tackles.
“Reflecting back on that first preseason game, the Hall of Fame game, it felt really fast compared to the last game against Kansas City,” Muma said. “It really slowed down for me. I was able to see plays quicker, react faster, and so I’m feeling more confident now.
“… I feel much more confident in my coverage skills, whether it’s in the past game, and also just using my hands. When an offensive lineman would come up to me I can engage them better and get off and make a play.”
Lloyd was the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Month for September after compiling 24 tackles and intercepting two passes and breaking up four others, but he hasn’t built on that. He has missed assignments and gotten out of position at times and Pederson admitted they benched him late in the first half of the Chiefs game.
Lloyd did play in the second half but finished with a season-low 38 defensive snaps (60%) in that game. He had played every defensive snap in six of the Jaguars’ nine previous games.
“I started off hot and then the last few weeks it wasn’t as good as I was in the beginning,” Lloyd said. “For me, it’s just going out and just executing, making plays that I know I can make and really just trust my ability.”
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Lloyd said he’s going to try and make the best out of his reduced playing time and focus on continuing to develop over the final seven games.
“I know what Doug had mentioned, [that] sometimes from the sideline you get a little bit different perspective,” he said. “Me personally, I love playing. I love playing the game. I obviously don’t want to go out but for me, it’s just all about growth. As perfect as we want it to be, it’s never going to be perfect. So for me, it’s just about learning from my mistakes and making sure they don’t happen again [and] continuing to progress every day.”