JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and Jaguars analyst Bucky Brooks examine the Jaguars' defensive line in this position-by-position look at the '23 offseason:
Position: Defensive line
Position coach: Brentson Buckner
- DL Roy Robertson-Harris (17)
- NT DaVon Hamilton (14)
- DL Foley Fatukasi (13)
- DL Corey Peters (3)
- DL Adam Gotsis (1)
- Jeremiah Ledbetter
- Dawuane Smoot
- Nick Thurman
2022 at a glance: Down linemen aren't the most heralded group in the Jaguars' 3-4 defensive scheme, but this was a group that performed well much of the season – and one that proved sufficiently deep after Smoot sustained a late-season, season-ending injury. Hamilton led the group with 56 tackles, 27 solo, with 2.5 sacks – and also registered five tackles for loss with six pressures, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a pass defensed. Robertson-Harris registered 45 tackles, 28 solo, and three sacks – and seven tackles for loss, 12 pressures and four passes defensed. Fatukasi registered 24 tackles, 13 solo, with 1.5 sacks – and three tackles for loss with three pressures and three passes defensed. Peters registered 20 tackles, 11 solo, with five tackles for loss and a pressure. Gotsis had 17 tackles, eight solo, with 1.5 sacks -- and three tackles for loss with eight pressures and two passes defensed. Smoot continued to be one of the most reliable, productive reserves on the roster with 21 tackles, 14 solo, and 5.0 sacks – and six tackles for loss with 12 pressures, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and two passes defensed.
Offseason storyline: This was among the Jaguars' more unsettled areas entering the offseason, with three key contributors – Smoot, Peters and Gotsis – becoming unrestricted free agents. The team made two moves to solidify the area in March, extending the contract of Robertson-Harris and re-signing Gotsis. Smoot remains something of a storyline. One of the team's most reliable veterans in recent seasons, his ability to penetrate and rush the passer has been valuable to the defensive line rotation. But he sustained a torn Achilles in a Week 16 victory over the New York Jets, and that historically can be a difficult injury from which to return. He remains a free agent, with Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke telling the Florida Times-Union last week the team is "working hard" to work out a deal for Smoot's return.
Free agents as of March 15: Smoot, Peters, Gotsis.
Bucky Brooks' top three free agent defensive line prospects:
- Javon Hargrave, Philadelphia Eagles (signed with San Francisco 49ers)
- Dre'Mont Jones, Denver Broncos (signed with Seattle Seahawks)
- Marcus Davenport, New Orleans Saints (signed with Minnesota Vikings)
Bucky Brooks' top three collegiate defensive line prospects:
- Jalen Carter, Georgia
- Will Anderson, Alabama
- Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech.
Oehser analysis: This was a solid area for the Jaguars in 2022, with Hamilton turning in perhaps the best of his three NFL seasons and Robertson-Harris developing into a dominant force during the team's late-season run to the postseason. Both players played every game. When that duo and Fatukasi were healthy and playing at a high level, the Jaguars often were very good against the run – and improving that area was a major offseason priority. The Jaguars also got some clutch pass rush from this group, particularly from Smoot – who at times in October and November was the front's most disruptive player. Robertson-Harris in his second season with the organization had multiple outstanding games late in the season, giving the Jaguars needed disruption up front as they pushed toward the AFC South title. This group may not always have been noticed, but Peters, Smoot, Hamilton, Gotsis, Robertson-Harris and Fatukasi all stood out at key times as the season continued.
Brooks' analysis: Despite disappointing sack numbers, the Jaguars' defensive line sparked the turnover frenzy from the defense this season. The persistent pressure and relentless effort forced opposing quarterbacks into poor decisions and errant throws, resulting in more interceptions and forced fumbles. The opportunistic disruption frequently tilted the game in the Jaguars' favor as the team claimed the AFC South crown and advanced to the AFC Divisional Playoff Round. Smoot and Robertson-Harris – along with outside linebackers Travon Walker, Arden Key and Josh Allen – keyed the effort with their energetic play, but the production needs to improve for the Jaguars to make the leap as a title contender. With Walker, Allen and Robertson-Harris possessing prototypical physical dimensions and disruptive potential as trench warriors, the Jaguars have a solid foundation for the future.