JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and Jaguars analyst Bucky Brooks examine the Jaguars' edge and end players in this position-by-position look at the '21 offseason
Position coach: Tosh Lupoi (defensive line), Zach Orr (outside linebackers).
2020 starters: Josh Allen (7), K'Lavon Chaisson (3), Adam Gotsis (13), Dawuane Smoot (7), Taven Bryan (1), DaVon Hamilton (1),
Others: Aaron Lynch, Lerentee McCray, Aaron Patrick.
2020 at a glance: This was somewhat of a lost season for this group, with the team trading two Pro Bowl ends – Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue – during the 2020 offseason and opting for a mix of young talent and veteran experience. Allen, the No. 7 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft who registered 10.5 sacks as a rookie, played just seven of 16 games because of a knee injury. Chaisson, the No. 20 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, also struggled for consistency throughout much of his rookie season. Allen registered two and a half sacks and two tackles for loss with 11 quarterback hits and Chaisson registered a sack, with three tackles for loss and nine quarterback hits in 16 games played. Smoot – a third-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft – led the Jaguars with 5.5 sacks, five tackles for loss and 17 quarterback hits; Gotsis – acquired as an unrestricted free agent before the 2020 season – registered four tackles for loss with three quarterback hits.
Offseason storyline: This is a tricky position to analyze for the Jaguars, primarily because the team has yet to officially announce a defensive scheme moving forward. The team played a 4-3 scheme under former defensive coordinator Todd Wash the last five seasons, employing a 4-3 scheme before that. The Jaguars in January hired Joe Cullen as defensive coordinator – and while Cullen was the defensive line coach in a 3-4 scheme with the Baltimore Ravens the past five seasons, he has eight seasons as a 4-3 NFL defensive line coach and six as a 3-4 NFL defensive line coach. Cullen and assistant head coach/inside linebackers coach Charlie Strong both said during their early-February media availability that being multiple with flexibility is more important than scheme – and that the scheme moving forward will depend on personnel. Many observers believe the Jaguars will gear toward a 3-4 with Allen and Chaisson playing standup outside linebacker as opposed to playing hand-on-the-ground end in the previous scheme.
Free agents as of March 17: Lynch, Smoot, Gotsis.
Bucky Brooks' top three free-agent EDGE defenders: Shaquil Barrett, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Matthew Judon, Baltimore Ravens; Melvin Ingram, Los Angeles Chargers.
Bucky Brooks' top three EDGE prospects: Gregory Rousseau, Miami; Jaelan Phillips, Miami; Kwity Paye, Michigan.
Oehser analysis: The storyline for this group centers around the future of the defense – and on the ability of Cullen and the defensive coaches to get production from Chaisson and Allen. The players have a chance to form one of the NFL's top young pass-rushing tandems, with Allen making the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2019 and Chaisson having big-time NFL athletic ability. Allen has shown the ability that made him one of the top two or three prospects in his draft class, and a potential move to a 3-4 could allow him to flourish in what many believe is his most natural position. Chaisson, too, could benefit from such a move. He excelled as a stand-up player at Louisiana State and never looked as comfortable during his rookie season with the Jaguars. Even if both players are expected to flourish in a new scheme, this could be an area where the Jaguars focus in either free agency or the draft. If the plan indeed is to gear toward a 3-4, depth and a reliable rotation of standup rushers will be critical.
Brooks analysis: The Jaguars' possible/likely transition to a 3-4 scheme should enable Allen and Chaisson to return to their natural positions on the edge. As athletic defenders with explosive first-step quickness and speed-rush capabilities, the Jaguars' young duo should be able to create chaos off the edges on a variety of blitzes, stunts and games that take advantage of their athleticism and movement skills. The team could upgrade the depth behind them with young veterans or a few top-rated prospects to provide Cullen with more ammunition to attack opponents utilizing multiple personnel groupings and exotic pressure packages. Considering the Jaguars are in Step 1 of the rebuilding phase under Head Coach Urban Meyer, the team must stockpile talented playmakers at marquee positions – including edge defender.