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On to 2024: Examining Jaguars Defensive Tackle Position Group

032124 on to 24 DT

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and Jaguars/NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks examine the Jaguars' defensive tackles in this position-by-position look at the '24 offseason

Position: Defensive tackle.

  • Position coach: Jeremy Garrett.
  • 2023 starters: Roy Robertson-Harris (17), Foley Fatukasi (16), DaVon Hamilton (2), Adam Gotsis (7), Jeremiah Ledbetter (2).
  • Others: Angelo Blackson, Henry Mondeaux, Esezi Otornewo.
Jaguars 2023 Defensive Tackle Position Group At A Glance:

With the Jaguars playing in a 3-4 defensive scheme in 2023, this group made up much of the three-man defensive front that started much of the season. As was the case with much of the Jaguars' defense, this group started strong and the defense as a whole was strong against the run through much of the first three months of the season. The run defense struggled late in the season as the Jaguars lost five of their final six regular-season games and missed the postseason with a loss to the Tennessee Titans in the regular-season finale. Robertson-Harris finished the season with 34 tackles – three for loss – with 3.5 sacks and 11 quarterback hits. Fatukasi finished with 24 tackles – three for loss – and two quarterback hits. Hamilton finished with 12 tackles, with Gotsis registering 26 tackles – three for loss – and a sack with seven quarterback hits. Ledbetter registered 24 tackles – one for loss – with a quarterback hit. Blackson led the Jaguars with three fumble recoveries.

Offseason Storyline:

As is the case at defensive end/outside linebacker, this is a position in something of a transition with Ryan Nielsen entering his first season as defensive coordinator after Mike Caldwell was dismissed from the position following the 2023 season. The Jaguars made a major move here by signing 10-year veteran Arik Armstead after his release from the San Francisco 49ers. The Jaguars also shortly before the March 13 start of the 2024 NFL League Year parted ways with Fatukasi, who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent in the 2022 offseason. Robertson-Harris and Hamilton, the other two high-profile defensive tackles in 2023, remain under contract. A key storyline at the position in 2024 will be Hamilton, who missed nine games with a back issue. Hamilton signed a contract extension in the 2023 offseason and the Jaguars need him to return to the disruptive player he was late in the 2022 season. This could be an area to watch in the 2024 NFL Draft, with the Jaguars perhaps looking to add a front-line player to a position that often rotates three or four players extensively.

Free agents as of March 13: Blackson.

Bucky Brooks' Top Three Free-Agent Defensive Tackles:
  1. Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs
  2. Justin Madubuike, Baltimore Ravens
  3. Christian Wilkins, Miami Dolphins (signed with Las Vegas Raiders)
Bucky Brooks' Top Three Collegiate Free-Agent Defensive Tackles
  1. Jer'Zhan Newton, Illinois
  2. Byron Murphy, Texas
  3. T'Vondre Sweat, Texas

Oehser Analysis: This is a critical area. The Jaguars' defense's late-season struggles in 2023 weren't all because of the defensive interior, but that group seemed to be less stout in the final six weeks of the season than in the first three months – and the run defense severely broke down in key late-season losses to the 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens and Titans. The thought here is Hamilton has a good chance to return to his pre-back issue form – and the position could improve automatically if defensive end Travon Walker gets pass-rush snaps on the interior. Armstead also figures to be a major upgrade. Either way, defensive tackle is a position that needs heavy rotation and you can never have too many disruptive players there. Also: Nielsen believes in rushing four without much exotic pass rush, which makes it important to pressure from the interior as well as the edge.

Brooks Analysis: The Jaguars need more production and better performances from their defensive tackles in 2024. Last season, the unit was a major disappointment with Hamilton, Fatukasi and Robertson-Harris failing to play to the lofty expectations Head Coach Doug Pederson established for the unit. The trio combined for just 3.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss for a frontline that was expected to produce "splash plays" (turnovers, tackles for loss and sacks) in bunches. Without a collection of disruptive plays from the group to offset the leaks against the run and minimal pass rush production, the Jaguars put too much pressure on Josh Allen and Walker to dominate the game from the edges. With a one-dimensional frontline unable to control the line of scrimmage, the Jaguars could not force opponents into the long-yardage situations that create turnover opportunities.

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