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Best Moments from Jaguars Defense in 2023

021324 Best of D-Line

JACKSONVILLE – In the fourth of a series examining the Jaguars' 2023 season, senior writer John Oehser examines the best moments for their defense in their 9-8 AFC South runner-up season …

1. All the way back. The Jaguars were 1-2 very much needing a victory entering a Week 4 game against the Atlanta Falcons at Wembley Stadium in London. They got that victory largely because of a strong defensive effort that featured the unit's first touchdown of the season. Atlanta, trailing 10-0, drove to the Jaguars 45. On first-and-10 from there, Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder passed to wide receiver Drake London. Jaguars cornerback Darious Williams cut under the route and returned the interception 61 yards for a touchdown and a 17-0 lead. "The pick-six was huge," Head Coach Doug Pederson said, with Williams adding: "We knew they're a good quick game team. I got my look, I saw [nickel corner] Tre Herndon go out. He kind of slowed him down for me and I just jumped it."

2. Dominant pass rush. Williams didn't make the only big play for the Jaguars in a 23-7 victory over the Falcons. Outside linebacker Josh Allen continued a big season with a big day at Wembley, registering three sacks – including a game-clinching sack/fumble. "It was an outstanding performance, and obviously the big one there at the end," Pederson said. "It's what he's capable of doing." Said Williams of Allen, "I don't know what he's eating, I don't know what he's drinking. He's doing something because he's going crazy. We need that. That helps the whole defense."

3. Touchdown time. Jaguars inside linebacker Foye Oluokun has been among the NFL's leading tacklers the past three seasons. In a Week 7 road victory over the New Orleans Saints, he turned in a huge play in pass defense—and one of the Jaguars' biggest defensive plays of the season. With the Saints having trimmed a Jaguars lead to 17-9 on their first possession of the second half, they faced third-and-10 from their 13 on the ensuing possession. Quarterback Derek Carr passed over the middle to wide receiver Rashid Shaheed. Williams defensed the pass, with Oluokun intercepting and returning it down the left sideline for a 24-9 Jaguars lead with 6:47 remaining in the third quarter. "He's just all over the place," quarterback Trevor Lawrence said of Oluokun. "I'm glad he's on our team. He's as smart as they come. And tough. I don't know if I've seen anybody that plays as hard as him. Every play is full speed, just all out."

4. Late-game heroics. Oluokun's touchdown wasn't the only defensive highlight against the Saints. Starting for injured Tyson Campbell, second-year cornerback Montaric Brown broke up a pass in the end zone that held the Saints to a second-quarter field goal. His biggest play came at game's end, when he broke up a pass from Carr to wide receiver Chris Olave in the left side of the end zone. That came on fourth-and-goal from the six, securing the victory with :21 remaining. "He made plays when he needed to, and that's the most important thing," Pederson said.

5. Fast start. Allen set the franchise record for sacks in a season in 2023 and started fast toward that milestone in the regular-season opener. Allen, the No. 7 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, registered a career-high three sacks and 10 tackles in a 31-21 come-from-behind victory over the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. "Up front, I believe we dominated; I did what I was expected to do for this defense, and everybody did their part," Allen said, with Pederson adding: "He's a leader of the football team and the defense and we were just pleased how he performed."

6. Big in the clutch. Allen and second-year linebacker Travon Walker combined for 27.5 sacks in 2023, the most in the NFL in 2023 by a tandem. Allen was strong all season, with Walker emerging as a consistent force late in the season. One of the duo's biggest moments came in a Week 13 road victory over the Houston Texans, with Allen registering 2.5 sacks and sharing one with Walker in the fourth quarter as the Jaguars held off a late Texans rally in a 24-21 victory. "We wanted to come in and handle business," Walker said. "We're always going to fight to the end."

7. Record-setter. The Jaguars' lone victory in the final six 2023 regular-season games featured their best defensive performance of the season – and a record-setting performance from Allen. He registered three sacks in a 26-0 Week 17 home victory over the Carolina Panthers. Allen finished that game with 16.5 sacks for the season, two more than the former single-season franchise record set by defensive end Calais Campbell in 2017. "This is a huge accomplishment for myself, the team and for my family as well," Allen said, with Pederson adding: "Those are big numbers. He has been good all season. Been consistent. Been steady. Congratulations to him." Said Allen, "I couldn't have done it by myself. For me to be in the history books, it's huge. I'm a legacy type of guy, I want to leave a legacy everywhere I go. I didn't do it by myself, first and foremost. So shout-out to everybody who was a part of it."

The Jaguars defensive line dominated with style in the 2023 season. 💪 Swipe through best of D-Line photos. Which one is your favorite?

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