JACKSONVILLE – One defensive tackle is in a pretty good situation.
That's true of Roy Miller, and while it's not as true of the Jaguars' other starting tackle – Sen'Derrick Marks – their position coach on Monday expressed confidence in the ability of both players to play and contribute next season.
Todd Wash, the Jaguars' defensive line coach and defensive run game coordinator, joined the 1010 XL's Jaguars Today radio show Monday morning. He discussed the status of Miller and Marks, two players who form the core of the team's defensive line – and the defense overall.
Each underwent knee surgery after the 2014 regular season.
Wash first discussed Miller, a nose tackle who underwent meniscus surgery after missing the final two games of the season and who is expected to return for the start of training camp.
"That one's not as big a concern as Sen'Derrick," Wash said Monday.
Marks, who led the Jaguars with eight sacks last season, sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the regular-season finale at Houston. He underwent reconstructive surgery last month.
The start of training camp will be about seven months after Marks' injury, with the regular-season opener a month after that.
"That's awful quick to come from an ACL tear, so he's a little bit of a concern for us," Wash said. "He's going to be a question mark for us going into the season, but he's working his tail off for us now."
Wash said while players are typically stronger their second year back from an injury than the first, "We know that Sen'Derrick has an unbelievable work ethic."
"He'll do everything he can to get himself back and ready to go," Wash said.
Wash said Miller, a seven-year veteran, might benefit from not being on the field during the offseason.
"He knows the scheme," Wash said. "He's a student of the game. He'll be in all of our meetings and studying just like he's always done, but he physically doesn't need to go out there and continue to tear his body down. He goes through a lot down there – even more than Sen'Derrick does …
"It's a different man's game down there, the nose guard, so he'll be fresh coming into training camp. He'll be ready to go."
The defensive front last season was the Jaguars' most-veteran unit, and one of the deeper areas on the team. Veteran Ziggy Hood played 416 snaps last season behind Marks' 719, and Hood likely will play a key role if Marks is out for an extended period.
"We see him as a quality player also," Wash said.
Second-year veteran nose tackle Abry Jones played 374 snaps behind Miller's 482.
"We're going to continue to be able to bring Abry along, who had a real nice year for us," Wash said.
The extensive snaps of players such as Hood and Jones last season was by design. The Jaguars during the 2014 offseason signed players such as Hood and ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons with the idea of allowing players such as Marks to be fresher as the season continued.
The defensive front was perhaps the team's most productive area, helping the defense register 45 sacks – fourth most in team history – and Wash said that depth benefitted the Jaguars. He said that was particularly true at the five-technique end spot, where Bryant and veteran Tyson Alualu essentially split repetitions.
"They basically went 50-50," Wash said. "You could see them being fresh in the fourth quarter if we wanted to get off the field on first and second down. With Sen'Derrick, it showed a lot; he played a little more than we wanted, but you could see his production on third down rushing the passer definitely showed."
One position that rotated less than would have been ideal: Leo pass rusher. With backup Andre Branch out seven games with a groin injury, Clemons played a line-high 789 snaps.
"He would have been even a better player if we could have rotated him," Wash said of Clemons, who finished with eight sacks and four forced fumbles. "He'd be up around 60 or 70 snaps some games; that's too many. If we want him to play at that high level and become that double-digit sack guy, we have to make sure he stays fresh."
Also on Monday:
*Wash said Branch continued to develop last season before the groin injury. A second-round selection from Clemson in the 2012 NFL Draft, Branch registered three sacks in the first three games of the season. He had five sacks in the last seven games in 2013. "It (the light) came on a year ago, actually – just addressing some things we didn't like, to be honest with you," Wash said. "He addressed them. He does exactly what you ask him to do. He's working out in California right now. We expect some real good things from him next year rushing the passer – and on first and second down." …
*Wash said the team would like to have Alualu back next season. The 2010 first-round selection is scheduled to become a free agent. "We've talked and we would love to have Tyson back," Wash said. "He adds so many different things. He can play end. He can play three-technique. He can go in and rush in a need. He can be a big part of what we do next year." Wash said Alualu, who never has missed a game in five NFL seasons, has benefitted from moving to end from tackle, where he played his first three seasons. "He was healthy this year, and was very productive," he said. …