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Jaguars Hire Ryan Nielsen as Defensive Coordinator


JACKSONVILLE The Jacksonville Jaguars have hired Ryan Nielsen as defensive coordinator, the team announced today.

"We're excited to welcome Ryan and have him lead our defense moving forward," said Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson. "Ryan is an outstanding football coach and his defenses with the Falcons and Saints were always fundamentally sound in both their physicality and concepts. He has the rare ability to both teach and connect with his players. He builds lasting, two-way relationships predicated on trust. He establishes accountability, first from himself, then the players. What I've most admired about Ryan's defenses -- and we saw this in London back in October -- was their shared intensity and enthusiasm to get the job done and impact the game."

Nielsen spent last season, his eighth in the NFL, with the Atlanta Falcons as defensive coordinator. In 2023, the Falcons defense ranked 3rd in third-down conversions, 4th in red zone efficiency and 11th in yards per game. Nielsen's defense also tied for the second-most forced fumbles in the NFL (18). Nielsen coached safety Jessie Bates III, who earned 2023 Pro Bowl and Associated Press All-Pro second team honors, as well as Week 1 and Week 12 NFC Defensive Player of the Week recognition.

Before Atlanta, Nielsen spent six seasons with the New Orleans Saints, serving as the co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach in 2022. During his time with the Saints, New Orleans recorded 281.0 sacks, second-most in the NFL over that span, and finished in the top 10 in sacks in each campaign. The Saints also did not allow a 100-yard rusher in an NFL-record 55 consecutive regular-season and postseason games between 2017 and 2020 and finished in the top four in run defense in four of six seasons.

During Nielsen's tenure (2017-22), New Orleans ranked third in opponent rushing yards per game and fifth in opponent yards per rush. The Saints were the only team to rank in the top three in both opponent rushing yards per game and cumulative sacks over the six-season period.

While working with New Orleans' defensive line, Cameron Jordan was named to six Pro Bowls, earned second-team All-Pro honors twice and became the first Saints defensive lineman to garner first-team All-Pro honors. Nielsen also worked with two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Trey Hendrickson, who had a career season (13.5 sacks, 25 quarterback hits) in 2020.

Prior to joining the Saints, Nielsen served as the defensive line/recruiting coordinator/run game coordinator at North Carolina State for four seasons (2013-16). In 2016, the Wolfpack ranked eighth in the nation in rushing defense. Junior defensive end Bradley Chubb recorded 22 tackles for loss, fourth-most in the country, and 11.0 sacks, fourth-most in the ACC.

A Broyles Award candidate in 2015 and 2016, given annually to college football's top assistant coach, Nielsen earned this recognition tutoring a Wolfpack defensive line that was part of a defense that ranked 29th in the nation in opponent net yards per game. In the 2018 NFL Draft, four linemen who Nielsen coached in Raleigh – Chubb, B.J. Hill, Justin Jones and Kentavius Street – were all selected.

Nielsen coached at Northern Illinois from 2011-12, including a 2012 season when he was the co-defensive coordinator/defensive line/recruiting coordinator and helped the Huskies reach the Bowl.

Serving as the defensive line/special teams coach at Tennessee-Martin in 2010, the Skyhawks led the Ohio Valley Conference in total defense. From 2008-09, Nielsen was the defensive coordinator and coached the defensive line and linebackers at Central Connecticut State. In 2009, Central Connecticut won the Northeast Conference title. Nielsen served as the defensive line coach at the University of Mississippi from 2005-07 under Ed Orgeron, following one season at the University of Idaho (2004), where he coached two freshman All-Americans.

Nielsen began coaching as a volunteer assistant at his alma mater, the University of Southern California in 2002. A Simi Valley, Calif. native, he started 30 games at defensive tackle at USC from 1998-2001. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in public policy in 2002 and went to training camp with the Philadelphia Eagles. He played for the Arena Football League's Los Angeles Avengers in 2004.

Table inside Article
2024 Jacksonville Jaguars Defensive Coordinator
2023 Atlanta Falcons Defensive Coordinator
2022 New Orleans Saints Co-Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach
2021 New Orleans Saints Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line Coach
2017-2020 New Orleans Saints Defensive Line Coach
2013-2016 North Carolina State Defensive Line Coach/ Recruiting Coordinator/Run Game Coordinator
2011-2012 Northern Illinois Co-Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach/Recruiting Coordinator
2010 Tennessee-Martin Defensive Line and Special Teams Coach
2008-2009 Central Connecticut State Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line and Linebackers Coach
2005-2007 Mississippi Defensive Line Coach
2004 Idaho Defensive Line Coach
2002 Southern California Defensive Assistant