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Coaches corner: "They understand what they have to do…"

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive line coach Jason Rebrovich against the Houston Texans in an NFL game, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019 in London. (Rick Wilson/Jacksonville Jaguars)

JACKSONVILLE – When observers speak about the Jaguars' defensive line these days, much of the talk is about scheme. Jason Rebrovich realizes this.

But when the Jaguars' defensive line coach thinks about 2020, he thinks not as much in terms of 3-4 or 4-3 personnel packages as about a specific task:

Stopping the run.

"There's no secret behind it," Rebrovich said. "Unfortunately, our run defense has plummeted in the last two years. Our division (the AFC South) makes us have to be more run oriented. To beat those teams, you must start stopping the run."

Rebrovich, entering his second season as the Jaguars' defensive line coach, spoke to recently about multiple topics. But while one topic was indeed what scheme the Jaguars' defense will play next season, Rebrovich said the focus is more about the players playing the scheme.

Rebrovich said it will be a group of versatile players – not schemes – that ultimately determine the look of the defensive front.

"Our personnel might change some of the calls and the tendencies we have done in the past; I will tell you that," he said. "There are guys across our front who play multiple positions. That's what we like about them. When we get out there, it could be personnel-based – meaning whatever offenses the opponent starts out in.

"That's the thing we do we try to find guys who have that versatility."

If versatility matters along the front, stoutness does, too.

To improve a run defense that struggled last season, the Jaguars this offseason signed defensive tackles Al Woods (Seattle) and Rodney Gunter (Arizona) as unrestricted free agents and selected defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton from Ohio State in Round 3 of the 2020 NFL Draft.

"They're guys who are going to clog holes and seams and be able to prevent the explosive runs and the wear and tear up front," Rebrovich said. "As we got later in the [2019] season, our gaps diminished a little bit more. Those guys got leaned on a lot more, which led to the run yardage we unfortunately gave up."

The trio will join a tackle group that includes veteran Abry Jones – the team's most tenured player – and third-year veteran Taven Bryan, a first-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft who Rebrovich said improved late last season.

"He's an extremely smart young man," Rebrovich said of Bryan. "He's really matured and become a smarter football player to anticipate things. The ability to react and see things before a play is snapped has helped his development. You saw that at the end of the season."

The edge of the line again is perhaps the team's deepest, most-talented position, which was true even before the team selected linebacker/defensive end K'Lavon Chaisson in the first round of the '20 draft.

The top three returning ends – Dawuane Smoot, Josh Allen and Yannick Ngakoue – combined for 24.5 sacks last season. Smoot had a career-best six sacks, and Ngakoue – who has yet to sign the franchise tender the team placed on him early this offseason – had eight.

"He's one of the most unique players I've ever been around – in a great way," Rebrovich said. "He's full throttle every single minute of his life. I'll be the solution; that's his mindset. I know there are things that are out there. Whatever that happens to be, I can't wait to be around that young man again."

The same is true of Allen, the No. 7 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft and a player Rebrovich called "an eager, gritty man who wants to become the best."

"That's what you want as a coach," he said of Allen, who led the Jaguars with 10.5 sacks last season. "Josh has that every day. He's ready to go. I'd be late in the office last season and I'd have Josh calling saying, 'Hey, I'm watching this [offensive] lineman … did you see his set?' It started to click with him more and more and more.

"You hear everybody talk about the game slowing down. Is it there with Josh? No. Is it coming? Yes, there's no doubt about it. To have a guy like that who has that drive, who wants that push … those guys make it exciting."

And while Rebrovich said the Jaguars expect to continue to rush the passer effectively, he said everyone involved with the front realizes what must happen to have a chance to do so.

"Our players aren't stupid," he said. "You don't need to keep banging a stick on a table and saying 'Boom, boom, boom.' They know what they're going to need to do and we're going to have to continue to grow and work on our run defense. They're eager. They hear it. They listen.

"They hear the questions. They understand what they have to do."

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