JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton examine the Jaguars' safeties in this position-by-position look at the '20 offseason
2019 starters: Jarrod Wilson (16), Ronnie Harrison (14), Andrew Wingard (2).
Others: Cody Davis, Josh Jones, Doug Middleton.
2019 at a glance: Like multiple other positions on the Jaguars, this area underwent a transition last season – with both Wilson and Harrison moving into full-time starting roles for the first time. Wilson, who had played mostly a reserve role in his first three NFL seasons, registered a team-high 73 tackles with six tackles for loss, two interceptions and four passes defensed. Harrison, a third-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, registered 70 tackles with two tackles for loss, two interceptions and nine passes defensed. Davis and Wingard played primarily special teams roles, with Wingard moving into the starting lineup for two games late in the season after an injury to Harrison.
Offseason storyline: This appears to be one of the few areas on the Jaguars' defense without a glaring need. Both Harrison and Wilson are under contract and appear likely to start next season, and Davis is a front-line special teams player. While the Jaguars could address depth here, it would be a surprise if they drafted the spot early or signed a premier free agent.
Free agents as of March 18: None.
Oehser analysis: This is a tricky spot for the Jaguars; as is the case at offensive line, the Jaguars are good here – but not yet great. Wilson and Harrison are starting-level players, but neither played at a difference-making level last season. Harrison has big-time ability but has been inconsistent; he flashed at times with some impact plays but – like multiple players in the Jaguars' back seven – had some untimely errors that led to big plays. Wilson, while not an "above-the-Xs-and-Os" player, was consistent and reliable after moving from a special-teams role into the starting lineup. The Jaguars theoretically could try to upgrade the spot in free agency or the draft but appear to need enough help elsewhere that spending major draft equity or free-agent money here appears unlikely. If that's the case, the Jaguars need Harrison to develop into the playmaker they expected when they drafted him – and for Wilson to continue to be the reliable, mistake-free player he was last season. You can't overhaul all positions in an offseason, so the Jaguars appear likely to stay status quo here while focusing on other areas.
Sexton analysis: The Jags knew they would miss the playmaking skills and veteran savvy of Tashaun Gipson in 2019, but with an $8.4 million cap figure – and with Harrison expected to move into the lineup – they needed to let him go. But Harrison wasn't ready to move into the lineup and the mistakes he made – and resulting issues – created a mess in the back end. Harrison seemingly has unlimited potential – and at 6-feet-3, he has the size and length to be an impact performer. Can he still be the guy they thought they drafted? Absolutely. Young players are often unpredictable, and he has everything he needs except a maturity level that is ready to be the man in the middle. They desperately need a third- round pick of his talent to approach his potential. The hope was Wilson would be steady next to Harrison and wouldn't have to be a big-play guy. But when Harrison struggled, so did Wilson. Wilson rarely makes mental mistakes and is a solid tackler. If they can coax Harrison's potential, they should get more from Wilson. Behind those two are solid special teams performers in Wingard and Davis, who can play in sub packages or in a pinch, but they're limited and would be a step down in the starting lineup. If the Jags brass wants more from the spot, they must address it via free agency and the draft.