PHOENIX, Ariz. – Senior writer John Oehser takes a second look at Head Coach Doug Marrone's comments during the 2019 NFL Annual Meeting with an emphasis on the Jaguars' potential defensive changes for next season
"WE WANT TO DO MORE"
Doug Marrone has a simple description for what Jaguars coaches want defensively next season.
"We are looking to do more, honestly," he said.
And if the Jaguars' head coach didn't reveal every detail of the coaching staff's plans for a unit that ranked in the Top 6 in the NFL in total defense each of the last three seasons, he made this clear during the 2019 NFL Annual Meeting:
The defense won't stay stagnant moving forward.
"There are going to be different things defensively and for our players to be challenged with that are going to be different," Marrone said Tuesday at the Coaches-Media breakfast at the Arizona Biltmore. "We are going to take a look at them and see how they fit and see if it is something that we feel comfortable moving forward and putting into our package when we play on Sunday."
The Jaguars will make the changes while transitioning from two players once considered core to the defense: defensive tackle Malik Jackson and safety Tashaun Gipson, each of whom was released in salary cap-related moves earlier this month. Jackson signed with Philadelphia and Gipson signed with Houston.
"It is difficult anytime you lose a player," Marrone said. "You are talking about two players that I would say have established themselves as very good, very productive NFL football players that have done a lot. A lot of people think, 'Oh, well they must not have liked them. They must have been a problem.' A lot of times it is just very simple. It is a business decision, it is a [salary] cap decision."
Second-year veteran Taven Bryan likely will play more extensively at defensive tackle next season than he did as a rookie, and fourth-year safety Jarrod Wilson – primarily a special teams player in his first three seasons – could start at safety alongside second-year veteran Ronnie Harrison.
"The players that come in and replace those [departed] players and take those spots have a lot to live up to because those guys have played well," Marrone said. "They are going to have to come out and play well. Our expectation is that they play better than what we have had out of it. I think that is what coaching is, and that is how you go about it."
As far as the exact nature of the scheme those players will play in 2019, Marrone said not to expect an overhaul and termed the changes "just adding on."
"We are talking about putting them in different positions and looking at different things," he said. "It's going to have our base philosophy, but we are trying to do more. ..."
"The right answer for us is going to be – what position can we put this player in to get what we want and put him in a position to be successful? We don't want to just put someone in a position and say we just want to put him in that position to be good. We want to put him in that position to be great, and that is what we are trying to get done."
A CHANGE IN CIRCUMSTANCE
The Jaguars, after ranking second in the NFL in total defense in 2017, ranked fifth last season. After ranking second in the league in sacks and turnovers forced in 2017, the unit ranked 22nd in both categories last season. A reason for the decline? Whereas the Jaguars often led by double digits and throughout the second half in 2017, those situations were rarer in 2018 – partly because the offense dropped from sixth in the NFL in total offense in 2017 to 27th in 2018. "Offensively, we weren't on the field as long, which obviously put more pressure in the way we want to play," Marrone said. "A lot of time we weren't able to score enough to get a lead – where now the opposing team has to play into our strength, which is our pass rush and our ability to intercept footballs and sack/strip quarterbacks. Two years ago, that's what we did a good job of. When you know they're throwing, and we can pin our ears back – and our DBs … that's when they kind of get juiced up a little bit and get excited. I'm not saying, 'Let's blame the offense,' because I think there are obviously things we could have done defensively."
"There were a lot of things to learn from last year. Obviously, I made a lot of mistakes. The way I handled the team, the way I did schematics, maybe looking at how we want to play, looking at what we want to do. We had a lot of injuries. Looking at how we practice. Looking at rehab. I am not one of those guys that is going to go around and say the trainers have to do [this]. I look at it first and say I have to do a better job. We have to pull everyone around. It starts with me. Let's get into this thing together. We have a common goal. Let's not make any mistake about that. We are all here for a common goal. Let's go about it as a team and not go about this common goal with an agenda for individuality."
--Marrone on lessons learned from the Jaguars' 5-11 2018 season