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Defensive Shift Could Factor in 2024 Draft Decisions

0420 Defense Article

JACKSONVILLE – Trent Baalke on Thursday offered few specifics.

What the Jaguars' general manager did say when speaking to the media in advance of next week's 2024 NFL Draft is that a new defense – and the philosophies of new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen – factor into offseason personnel decisions and evaluation.

"There's a definite change," Baalke said.

Nielson took over as defensive coordinator in January, with Baalke on Thursday discussing the team moving from a three-lineman defensive front under former coordinator Mike Caldwell to a four-linemen front under Nielsen.

The Jaguars have played a three-lineman front since 2021, when Joe Cullen replaced longtime assistant Todd Wash as coordinator.

"What he's looking for at the end position is different than what we were looking for in the last scheme," Baalke said of Nielsen. "There's definitely a change, but it's a change I'm very familiar with. It's been good. Ryan and his staff, we've had a very good dialogue. We've spent a lot of time when he first got here, going through exactly what he was looking for at the different positions."

Baalke, too, said the scheme calls for a change in approach at strongside linebacker and cornerback, with the latter position expected to play more press coverage in a Nielsen scheme that the new coordinator said emphasizes attacking and playing aggressively.

With many observers projecting cornerback as a need for the Jaguars next week, Baalke discussed the position extensively Thursday – and said the position is strong and deep in this draft.

"It's a good group," he said. "If you looked at 32 boards, you'd probably find 28 different ways to stack the top 10 corners in this draft. You might find 32 different ways. I think it's that close. I think there's good value, they're good players, the makeup and character of these players are all different, it's all over the board. It's going to be interesting how that group falls off the board on draft day.

"I think the system plays an important role in that as well. How are you going to play the corners? You going to play them off-man? You going to play them on the line of scrimmage? On press and run with guys? I do think that plays into it. I think there's really good depth and really good skill at the corner position in this draft more so than maybe the last couple of drafts that I've been involved with here. So, it'll be interesting to see how these top guys fall off the board."


  • Linebacker Ventrell Miller and offensive lineman Cooper Hodges are progressing nicely, as Head Coach Doug Pederson sees it. The two 2023 Jaguars draft selections missed their rookie seasons with injuries, with Miller (fourth round) sustaining an Achilles injury and Hodges (seventh round) sustaining a patellar injury. Both injuries occurred during the preseason. "Both guys are doing extremely well," Pederson said, adding that both players will participate in Phases 2 and 3 of the offseason program that began this week at the Miller Electric Center. "Both have been here, rehabbing and did a nice job during the season to get themselves in a position to perform this spring. It will be a big opportunity for both of those guys, because I thought at the end of camp, both of those guys were really trending in the right direction for us to potentially help. We'll see where they are, but they're healthy, they're ready to get back on the grass and see where we can plug them in and contribute and give us the depth that we're looking for at both of those positions."


  • Baalke on the importance of the "person" in the draft: "Very important. I think you look at this roster, you look at it since [Pederson] and I have been together, the locker room is good. We place an emphasis on leadership. We're a young group. We focused on that as we went into the offseason, especially in free agency, with the type of guys we brought in here: Guys from winning programs, that are used to winning, that are used to leading and being a part of that championship run. We're looking for players that have similar characteristics as we move forward."

Back to work 💪 The guys are hitting the gym and the practice field. Check out the top photos from the first couple of days back at Miller Electric Center.

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