JACKSONVILLE – Teaching will matter. A lot.
Todd Wash said that was a focus during the offseason program that ended late last week for veterans, and the Jaguars' defensive coordinator said he expects that will remain the case.
The reason: The defense is young – with a lot of new players. That means a lot of concepts must be taught to a lot of newcomers.
"It's a totally new roster on the defensive side," Wash said.
Wash, speaking recently on a video conference shortly after the end of the offseason program, said that was no surprise – and that was the plan entering the offseason. The Jaguars began executing that plan by trading cornerback A.J. Bouye and defensive end Calais Campbell in March, and by allowing defensive tackle Marcell Dareus to become a free agent.
They then signed defensive tackle Al Woods, defensive lineman Rodney Gunter, middle linebacker Joe Schobert, defensive end/linebacker Aaron Lynch and defensive end/linebacker Cassius Marsh as unrestricted free agents – and selected cornerback CJ Henderson and defensive end/linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson in Round 1 of the 2020 NFL Draft.
"The plan this offseason was to get young and to get real athletic, and I think we've done that," Wash said.
Still, that's major turnover in one offseason. Wash said it has affected the team's offseason approach – and that it will affect training camp as well.
"Being young, we're obviously not going to force-feed stuff that you can with a veteran unit," Wash said. "It's more important that they can have the ability to go out and execute. It's maybe not so much how much we do; it's how well we play it.
"That's the biggest thing as a coaching staff that we have to keep a pulse on: It's not what we know; it's what our players know. We've had an extremely slow install in this offseason that we just finished up with and the same thing will happen once we get into training camp.
"It will be a slower install and we want to make sure we're executing before we're trying to do too much and play up the athletic ability of our team."
ON THE BACKERS
Wash said he likes the makeup of the team's linebacker corps entering the season, with Schobert having been signed as an unrestricted free agent from the Cleveland Browns – a move that will have the added effect of allowing Myles Jack to move from the middle to the weakside position. "He's doing a really good job," Wash said of Schobert. "Understanding what we call things, how we adjust to things, is the biggest adjustment. But he is doing a great job with that." Wash added that Schobert and Jack already have a good relationship: "Myles is bragging about him [Schobert] – his leadership, how intelligent he is." Wash said of Jack's move to the weak side: "He feels very comfortable over there. Instead of making the calls, he's being able to listen. I really look forward to him being at the Will [weak-side] spot. That's a great playmaking position. [Former Jaguars weak-side linebacker] Telvin [Smith] did a great job with that in the past and now obviously we think Myles is going to be a great will linebacker for us."
Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone, like Wash, believes versatility will be key for the defense this season. The team plans to use multiple players who can play defensive end and linebacker – players such as returners Yannick Ngakoue and Josh Allen, as well as newcomers Chaisson, Marsh and Lynch – in different roles to give different looks. "When you look at our football team and you look at Josh Allen, Yannick Ngakoue, Cassius Marsh … they give us some great flexibility of being able to put their hand on the ground or being able to stand up," Marrone said. "From an offensive standpoint, that can create some challenges. From a standpoint of being multiple, it's good. We feel like we have some guys who can be really good football players and get great production out of them in some of those positions."
Wash on cornerback CJ Henderson and Chaisson, both of whom were selected in Round 1 of the 2020 NFL Draft: "We want both of them to be plugged in in the first game and playing the majority of the reps. Obviously, this is a unique offseason that we had. We know they have the physical skill to play at this level with both of them being drafted in the first round. We anticipate both of them to be solid, impact players for us Week One. We're going to figure lot more of that once we get on grass in training camp, but both of them physically have the abilities to be impact players early in their career."