JACKSONVILLE – Mike Caldwell likes what he sees so far.
And when it comes to the Jaguars' defensive coordinator assessing the defense as roster cutdowns and the 2023 regular season approach, "so far" is an important concept.
"We're a work in progress," Caldwell said.
As Caldwell sees it, it has been good work to date – with the Jaguars' front-line players and starters playing two series in a Preseason Week 1 victory over the Dallas Cowboys and reserves playing the rest of that game and all of a Preseason Week 2 victory over the Detroit Lions this past week.
Key Jaguars defensive numbers in two preseason games: Two interceptions, two forced fumbles and recoveries, six sacks, eight passes defensed, 12 pressures and 11 tackles for loss.
"We did some good things in the preseason," Caldwell said, adding that he – like Head Coach Doug Pederson – is pleased overall with depth as the preseason finale approaches.
The Jaguars' reserves held the Lions to 131 yards and nine first downs in a 25-7 victory Saturday.
"I think we're strong up front," Caldwell said. "We've had a few guys get nicked up, so that hurts our depth. But overall, I think we're close to being where we need to be. You always have guys get nicked up. You always have guys go through a few things, but we're just worrying about working every day to get better and as a unit, as each position group, we're just trying to hone our skills so we're ready to go when the season kicks off."
Caldwell, too, assessed multiple players Tuesday. They included:
- Veteran defensive lineman Jeremiah Ledbetter, who had a sack with two pressures and a forced fumble in Detroit: "He's like a pocketknife. He can do a little bit of everything, whatever you need him to do. He can play the nose, he can play a three [technique], he can play a five [technique]. He has pass-rush ability inside. He has a variety of different talents and he's starting to master his talent. It's starting to show. He had a great game for us other night."
- Rookie linebacker Ventrell Miller, a fourth-round selection in the 2023 NFL Draft who is practicing as he returns from January foot surgery. "He has the knack to make big plays and that's something we're looking for. You can see the play making ability start to come, but we do need to see more."
- Rookie pass rusher Yasir Abdullah, who had a sack and a pressure in a Preseason Week 1 victory over Dallas and a pressure against Detroit: "You see the flashes. It's just him getting comfortable with the NFL game. It's a little bit different. He's going against different tackles and we've thrown him in there."
Caldwell said turnovers will continue to be an emphasis for a defense that finished fourth in the NFL in 2022 by forcing 27.
"It's just day by day," he said. "We come in here and try to get better. We focus on certain things and sometimes they show up, sometimes they don't. Turnovers and tackling have been things we've really harped on, and that's starting to show up a little bit. Hopefully that continues.
"We just have to continue to work on [forcing turnovers], continue to talk about it and once the season comes. Hopefully, they'll continue to come."
- Offensive lineman Chandler Brewer returned to practice Tuesday after being in the concussion protocol Monday
- Rookie safety Antonio Johnson (hamstring)
- Offensive lineman Josh Wells (adductor) were on the side Tuesday
- Guard/center Tyler Shatley (atrial defibrillation) remaining limited
- Outside linebacker Josh Allen and punter Logan Cooke missed practice Tuesday with excused absences
- Defensive lineman DaVon Hamilton remained out of practice with a non-football-related back issue
- Rookie offensive lineman Cooper Hodges (patellar) remained out of practice
- Defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot (Achilles) remains on the Physically Unable to Perform list to start camp