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Jaguars 2018 Training Camp: Breaking down the defense

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (91) smiles during training camp, Saturday, July. 28, 2018 in Jacksonville, Fla. (Logan Bowles via AP Images)
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (91) smiles during training camp, Saturday, July. 28, 2018 in Jacksonville, Fla. (Logan Bowles via AP Images)

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Another day, another long wait.

This is the reality we face as covering the Jaguars' dual practices against the Minnesota Vikings – that the combination of the late start of practices and the time change makes for a lot of time each day before practice at last begins.

So, just as we did as we waited for the first dual practice with the Vikings Wednesday, we'll use this time on yet another long day of 2018 Training Camp to focus on the Jaguars' roster. We focused on offense Wednesday. Because we're nothing if not creative here on, we'll focus today – Thursday – on defense.

Here's a close look at that side of the ball three weeks into '18 training camp:

Defensive ends (10)

Starters: Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue.

Reserves (big end): Taven Bryan, Dawuane Smoot, Hunter Dimick, Lyndon Johnson.

Reserves (rush end): Dante Fowler Jr., Lerentee McCray, Carroll Phillips, Darius Jackson.

Comment: This is the first of several deep, strong areas on the Jaguars' defense with Campbell being the Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year runner-up last season as well as a Pro Bowl and Associated Press first-team All-Pro selection. He had a career-high 14.5 sacks last season and Ngakoue had 12 in a Pro Bowl season that established him as one of the NFL's top young pass rushers. Both have looked strong in camp and appear primed for strong seasons. The Jaguars are deep at strong end spot behind Campbell, having drafted Bryan in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft and with Smoot having been a third-round selection in '17. Dimick also has impressed in camp. Fowler, who registered 10 sacks including the postseason last season, spent the first three weeks of '18 camp on the physically unable to perform list. He will serve a one-game suspension under the NFL's personal-conduct policy in Week 1, but he gives the team impactful depth at rush end. McCray is a capable third rush end and has flashed at times during camp. He's a key special teams player.

Defensive tackles (7)

Starters: Malik Jackson, Marcell Dareus/Abry Jones.

Reserves (nose tackle): Eli Ankou, Sealver Siliga.

Reserves (tackle): Michael Bennett, Bryan.

Comment: This area is particularly deep and strong for a couple of reasons. One, the front-line talent here is very good with Jackson and Dareus being Pro Bowl-level, difference-making players in their primes and Jones being a capable starter at nose tackle. The depth here is particularly strong because Campbell and Bryan often move inside in the nickel package, giving the Jaguars three Pro Bowl-level players and a first-round selection capable of playing on the interior of the defensive line. The Jaguars liked Ankou as depth at the nose last season. This area got markedly better last season with the midseason addition of Dareus; all indications in camp are that that improvement should continue.

Linebackers (10)

Starters: Telvin Smith, Myles Jack, Leon Jacobs.

Reserves (weakside): Blair Brown, Deon King, Reggie Hunter.

Reserves (middle): Donald Payne, Andrew Motuapuaka.

Reserves (strongside): Brooks Ellis, Manase Hungalu.

Comment: The front-line talent here is as good as any linebacker group in the NFL, with Smith a Pro Bowl selection on the weak side and Jack appearing on the verge of a breakout season that could put him at a Pro Bowl level. Jacobs, a seventh-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, has worked with the starters at strong-side linebacker throughout training camp and has drawn praise from teammates and coaches for picking up the defense quickly. He appears likely to be the starter entering the season. The Jaguars like Brown as a backup, and Payne stood out on special teams last season. The unknown here may be depth at the other positions. The reason to love this spot entering the season: Jack seems to improve with every practice; the combination of he and Smith at the linebacker spot will be something watch this season.

Safeties (7)

Starter: Tashaun Gipson, Barry Church.

Reserves (strong): Ronnie Harrison, Don Carey.

Reserves (free): Cody Davis/Jarrod Wilson, C.J. Reavis.

Comment: Gipson and Church were two of the most underrated players on the Jaguars' defense last season, with their knowledge of the defense and opposing offenses key to the secondary being one of the best in the NFL. Davis was signed as a special-teams ace; he has been impressive on special teams in camp and is a capable reserve. Harrison, a third-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, is a solid backup who could develop into a starter in 2019. Look for this area to be better than last season, with Church and Gipson having played together for a full season; that sort of cohesion can be critical at safety.

Cornerbacks (11)

Starters: Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye.

Reserves: D.J. Hayden (nickel), Tyler Patmon, Tre Herndon, Jalen Myrick, Sammy Seamster, Quenton Meeks, Bryce Canady, Dee Delaney, Kenneth Acker.

Comment: The Jaguars' starters at this spot may be the league's best duo, with Ramsey being selected a first-team Associated Press All-Pro selection last season and Bouye being an AP second-team All-Pro selection. The Jaguars signed Hayden as a nickel corner from the Detroit Lions as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, and he has developed throughout training camp as he has grown more familiar with the defense. Herndon has impressed throughout camp and the preseason. He and Patmon appear certain to make the roster.

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