Jaguars 2018 Training Camp: Tackling an emphasis

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JACKSONVILLE – Todd Wash won’t say all is perfect.

But a lot is undeniably very good for the Jaguars’ defense. That’s true for the long-term prognosis for the unit, and Wash said it has been true so far in 2018 Training Camp.

“I do like where we’re at,” the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator said early Monday morning before the Jaguars’ Day 10 practice of ’18 camp at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex.

“I think our first unit has played well. We’ve gotten a lot of guys in with the first unit also. The biggest thing is we’ve got to be able to make sure we get to the regular season healthy, but at the same time we’ve got to make sure we’re ready to go physically.”

The Jaguars have held seven consecutive padded practices, including five in five days last week. They worked for about two-and-a-half hours in 90-degree temperatures Sunday in one of the most difficult practices of ’18 camp to date.

The Jaguars will play host to the New Orleans Saints at TIAA Bank Field – and while Wash declined to discuss how much individual players will play in that game, he said tackling will be a major focus for the team in the coming days and weeks.

“We’re going to find out with this entire defense how well we tackle here in the next month,” Wash said. “We haven’t really tackled yet. In practice, you see some leverage situations show up where it’s going to be tough to make some of these plays. We’re going to find out with everybody how well we tackle. That’s what we’re concerned with.”

Jaguars players such as linebacker Telvin Smith and end Calais Campbell have talked in recent weeks about a preseason/training camp focus on closing games better than last season. 

Wash said such “situational football” scenarios have been and will continue to be a camp focus.

“We get into a four-minute situation, we’ve got to get a stop,” Wash said. “Two-minute – not allowing a field goal, continuing to get into overtime. We’re going to put them in position where it’s really up to us defensively to try to win football games. 

“When that happens, we have to make sure we stay true to our fundamentals, execute and we’ll get off the grass. We’re putting them in a lot of those situations to see how well they’ll respond when the game is on the line defensively.”

The Jaguars ranked second in the NFL in yards allowed last season with a defense that featured six Pro Bowl selections: cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey, linebacker Telvin Smith, tackle Malik Jackson and ends Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell. All return this season to a unit that also features former Pro Bowl players such as tackle Marcell Dareus and safety Tashaun Gipson as well as two recent first-round selections at defensive end: Taven Bryan (2018) and Dante Fowler Jr. (2015).

The Jaguars last season ranked second in the NFL in interceptions, takeaways and points allowed. Wash was asked Monday if he embraced comparisons to other recent elite defenses.

“I’ll be honest: I don’t worry about anybody in the league, trying to compare ourselves to them, or their defenses,” Wash said. “The only thing we care about is what we do. If we go out and I put them in the right call and they go out and execute, we have a chance to be successful. We worry about us.

“We just had a stern meeting this morning that, ‘We control how well we play. Nobody else does.’ So, we don’t compare ourselves to anybody.”

Also on Monday:

*The Jaguars ruled out four players before Monday’s practice: Defensive end Calais Campbell, nose tackle Eli Ankou, wide receiver DeAndre Smelter and linebacker Brooks Ellis. Offensive lineman Brandon Smith was expected to return to practice after missing Sunday.

*Defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. remained on the physically unable to perform list. He has been on PUP since the start of training camp.

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