JACKSONVILLE – Consider Todd Wash pleased.
With the 2019 offseason program coming to an end, the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator on Thursday discussed a unit that has undergone significant change in the last six months.
He likes what he seen in the non-padded work that took place the last four weeks.
“I like where we’re at right now defensively,” Wash said Thursday before the third and final practice of 2019 minicamp at the Dream Finders Homes Flex Field adjacent to TIAA Bank Field.
“They’re getting along very well and they’re communicating extremely well.”
Wash, entering his fourth season as the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator, said communication was a focus this offseason.
“That was a big part of things: If we had issues last year with our scheme, I think it was more a communication thing than anything else,” Wash said of a defense that ranked fifth in the NFL in fewest yards allowed last season after ranking second in the category in 2017 and sixth in 2016.
“I think they’re communicating,” he added. “They’re having fun together. I think that’s the most important thing. As a coaching staff, we have to have an environment where they enjoy coming to work and I think we have that. You see them obviously getting along and coming to work every day.”
Wash on Thursday also addressed multiple other areas of the Jaguars’ defense, including:
*Rookie linebacker Quincy Williams. A third-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, Williams could move quickly into a starting weak-side linebacker role; 2017 Pro Bowl weak-side linebacker Telvin Smith has not participated in the offseason program and announced last month he didn’t plan to play in 2019. “We’ve played with rookies before in the system,” Wash said. “If we have to calm his role down a little bit, that’s my job. We’re going to put the best player out there. I think we have some really excellent depth at linebacker. I like where are linebackers are.”
*Third-year defensive end Dawuane Smoot. A third-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, Smoot has gotten extensive work in the offseason because of the absence of Pro Bowl end Yannick Ngakoue (missing because of contract issues) and rookie edge defender Josh Allen (knee). “Even in the offseason, we talked about where Smoot is at,” Wash said. “You see he’s stepping up. He’s doing a real nice job playing a couple of different positions. We’re short some rushers at this time. We have different guys in there, but Smoot’s really helping his cause.”
*Second-year safety Ronnie Harrison. A third-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, Harrison is expected to move into a starting role this season after playing mostly as a “big nickel” defensive back as a rookie. “He’s done a very nice job for us,” Wash said. “You can see he’s obviously more familiar with the package going into his second year. We’re very encouraged with not only what he’s doing, but what his future is. He’ll continue to improve once we get pads on, but he has made a lot of plays on the ball and gotten his hands on a lot of balls in the passing game. What he really does a nice job of is sniffing out the run game. He’s a safety in the box most of the time. He has great instincts down there. We’re very, very excited about Ronnie.”
*Backup safety. Wash discussed second-year veteran C.J. Reavis and seven-year veteran Cody Davis in this role. Harrison and fourth-year veteran Jarrod Wilson – a backup his first three seasons – are expected to enter training camp as the starters. “You’ve got Reavis and you’ve got Cody Davis right now back there,” Wash said. “Right now, we don’t really have a third. I think we have a backup strong and a backup free. I wouldn’t say we have a guy that can play both positions right now, which we’ve had to go through that before.” Wash also said undrafted rookies Andrew Wingard and Zedrick Woods have flashed and learned the defense well. “Both of those guys are very intelligent young men and we’re excited about them also,” Wash said.