Skip to main content

Jaguars News | Jacksonville Jaguars -

On to 2024: What's Next for Jaguars Safeties?

040324 on to 24 Safeties

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

Position: Safeties.

  • Position coach: Kris Richard (Defensive backs coach).
  • 2023 starters: Rayshawn Jenkins (17), Andre Cisco (15), Andrew Wingard (2).
  • Others: Darnell Savage Jr., Daniel Thomas, Antonio Johnson, Ayo Oyelola.
Jaguars 2023 Safety Position Group At A Glance:

This group, like much of the Jaguars' defense, struggled at times late in the 2023 season after a strong start. The group, like much of the Jaguars' entire roster, underwent comparatively little change from 2022 into 2023 with Rayshawn Jenkins serving as the veteran leader of the group and third-year veteran Andre Cisco starting alongside Jenkins for a second consecutive season. Veteran reserve/special teams ace Andrew Wingard also played an extensive role, with rookie Antonio Johnson increasingly playing a key role after recovering from a preseason hamstring injury. Veteran Daniel Thomas remained a key special teams player. Jenkins led the position and finished third on the team with 100 tackles – 66 solos – and seven tackles for loss with a sack, two interceptions and nine passes defensed. Cisco registered 62 tackles – 42 solo – with one tackle for loss, a half-sack and four interceptions with five passes defensed. Wingard registered 40 tackles – 31 solo – with a tackle for loss and an interception. Johnson started at nickel corner the final three games of the season, playing 14 games with 14 tackles – 11 solos – with a sack, two interceptions and three passes defensed.

Offseason Storyline:

This follows a defense-wide trend as a position in transition, with the major offseason moves releasing Jenkins before the March 13 start of the 2024 NFL League Year and signing Savage as an unrestricted free agent. Savage, a first-round selection by the Green Bay Packers in the 2019 NFL Draft, started 69 of 72 games in five seasons with the Packers. He has nine career interceptions, with one returned for a touchdown, and has 306 tackles – including 222 solos. Key, too, to this position is the hiring as defensive backs coach of longtime NFL secondary coach Kris Richard. He served as the Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator in 2015-2017 and served as defensive backs coach for the New Orleans Saints in 2021-2022 under defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen – with Nielsen taking over as the Jaguars' defensive coordinator in January.

Free agents as of March 13: Thomas (re-signed with team)

Bucky Brooks' Top Three Free-Agent Safeties:

  1. Xavier McKinney, New York Giants (signed with Packers)
  2. Antoine Winfield, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (re-signed with Buccaneers)
  3. Kyle Dugger, New England Patriots (transition tag)

Bucky Brooks' Top Three Collegiate Safeties:

  1. Tyler Nubin, Minnesota
  2. Javon Bullard, Georgia
  3. Callen Bullock, Southern California

Oehser Analysis: While observers won't focus on this area this offseason as much as cornerback, it figures to be an important storyline in 2024. The Jaguars moved on from veteran Jenkins, who long will be remembered for two of the most memorable plays in franchise history during the team's 2023 postseason run (interception return for overtime touchdown versus Dallas, sack/fumble that led to game-winning touchdown in regular-season-ending victory over Tennessee). Jenkins became a salary-cap casualty following his third season with the team, with Savage considered a better fit for Nielsen's defensive philosophy of aggressive secondary play with safeties needing to be aggressive in the run game while providing help over the top against deep passes. Johnson also figures to play a key role in his second NFL season – as a starter and perhaps as a significant contributor as a "big nickel" defensive back. With safeties playing a significant role on this defense, Wingard – long one of the most reliable and respected members of the secondary – figures to continue to be an important presence.

Brooks Analysis: Despite a strong set of performances to open the season, the Jaguars' defense fell apart down the stretch. Part of the unit's failures can be attributed to the inconsistent play from the defensive backfield, particularly the safeties. Though Jenkins, Cisco and Wingard helped the Jaguars rank among the league's best in takeaways, the blown assignments and shoddy coverage from the designated deep defenders resulted in too many big plays for their opponents. Moreover, the lack of deep ball awareness led to the Jaguars surrendering the third-most completions of 40 yards or more (13) in the NFL in 2023. Given the correlation between explosive plays and points allowed, the Jaguars' inconsistent play at safety played a significant role in the defense's struggles.

Related Content