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Doug Pederson Excited for Defensive Development Under Ryan Nielsen

030124 Doug Support Ryan Article

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The change was major, and Doug Pederson likes the result.

The Jaguars' head coach spoke to the media this week at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine, with a major defensive change the major topic:

Ryan Nielsen is in, and Pederson believes that's a good thing.

"It's all for the better," Pederson said Tuesday. "I'm excited for the future, excited to work with these guys coming up in this offseason."

Pederson and General Manager Trent Baalke this week addressed multiple topics around the Jaguars, who finished second in the AFC South with a 9-8 record after losses in five of their final six games. Among the more important topics: Pederson's decision to dismiss most of the 2023 defensive coaching staff and replace it with one led by Nielsen as defensive coordinator.

Nielsen spent last season as the Atlanta Falcons' defensive coordinator.

The Jaguars in 2023 finished 24th in the NFL in yards allowed (342.8 yards per game) and 17th in points allowed (21.8) after finishing 24th in yards allowed (353.3) and 12th in points (20.6) in 2022. They registered 27 turnovers in each season, finishing eighth in the NFL in 2023 and fourth in 2022.

Their 40 sacks in 2023 ranked 25th in the NFL after they ranked 25th with 35 in 2022.

"Obviously you make tough decisions at the end of the season, and as a head coach you evaluate a lot of different things – made some tough moves, tough decisions," Pederson said. "I appreciate what those guys did for me and for the Jaguars the last two years. My focus was to get the next group of guys in there.

"It just kind of gives me a group of men that No. 1, are going to get the most out of our players obviously."

The Falcons ranked 18th in points allowed (21.9 per game) in 2023 after ranking 23rd in 2022 (22.7) and ranked 11th in yards allowed in 2023 (321.1) after ranking 27th the previous season (362.1). They registered 42 sacks in 2023 after registering 21 in 2022.

"I think Ryan has proven over time, especially with the front, he's done an excellent job with those guys developing them – moving them around in varying positions along the front to work matchups," Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke said. "I think you're going to see a lot of that as we move forward."

Nielsen, 44, spent 2017-2022 with the New Orleans Saints and served as the defensive line coach all six seasons. He served as co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach in 2022 and assistant head coach/defensive line coach in 2021.

"We're very similar in the way of the details, the fundamentals, the teaching aspect of it," Pederson said of Nielsen. "Let me preface this by saying this is not a knock on Mike or any of the [former] defensive [coaches]; this is what I just like about Ryan. The way he approaches the game, the way he teaches it, the fundamentals part of it, the way he practices … I think that's all important on helping our team win."


  • Pederson this week discussed an offensive line that struggled at times in 2023, with the Jaguars finishing 24th in the NFL in rushing and with 25 percent of their running attempts failing to gain a yard. Their 3.6 yards per carry ranked 31st in the NFL. "If you talk to these guys individually, they know and we know that it wasn't our best," Pederson said. "As a coaching staff, I put a lot of this on us and making sure that we're doing the right things to put our players in position. We always talk about competition and we want to bring in players to add value and depth at every position. We have to coach it better, we have to teach it better, we have to detail it and it all starts in the offseason." Pederson noted that the final regular-season game was the only one in 2023 in which the 2023 projected starting offensive line of left tackle Cam Robinson, left guard Ezra Cleveland, center Luke Fortner, right guard Brandon Scherffand right tackle Anton Harrison all started. "We didn't have consistency; we didn't have continuity," Pederson said. "That affects five guys up front. That's what we have to get back to, we have to get back to a little bit more consistency there but we can also help them as coaches and prepare them better. I know we will be starting this offseason."


  • Baalke on outside linebacker Travon Walker, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft who registered 10 sacks in 2023 after registering 3.5 as a rookie: "I think he's just scratching the surface. With the way he works and the way he competes, I think his ceiling is very, very high and what we thought it was when we drafted him obviously with the first pick in the draft."

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