JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and Jaguars analyst Bucky Brooks examine the Jaguars' safeties in this position-by-position look at the '21 offseason …
Position coach: Chris Ash.
2020 starters: Josh Jones (13), Jarrod Wilson (12), Andrew Wingard (4), Daniel Thomas (2) Brandon Rusnak (1).
2020 at a glance: This position, like many others on the Jaguars' defense, dealt with injuries and the accompanying inconsistency – with essentially every safety on the team starting at least one game. The Jaguars surprised many by trading safety Ronnie Harrison to the Cleveland Browns shortly before the regular season, with Jones – claimed by the Jaguars off waivers from the Dallas Cowboys – earning the starting position with a solid performance in training camp. Jones emerged as a starter and he missed three games with a chest injury, registering an interception and a pass defensed. Wilson, who became a starter in 2019 after three seasons as a reserve/special teams ace, missed four games with a hamstring injury and turned in 69 tackles, two tackles for loss, an interception and three passes defensed. Thomas, a fifth-round selection from Auburn in the 2020 NFL Draft, emerged as a possible starter in November before sustaining a season-ending arm injury in a home loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers; Thomas had an interception and two passes defensed. Wingard, a second-year veteran who signed as a collegiate free agent following the 2019 NFL Draft, made 42 tackles and three tackles for loss with two interceptions and five passes defensed.
Offseason storyline: This position follows a similar storyline to many others around the Jaguars, with major change expected as the Jaguars reshape their roster under Head Coach Urban Meyer and General Manager Trent Baalke. One starter from last season – Jones – is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, and the team already reportedly has addressed the position in a major way by agreeing to terms with safety Rayshawn Jenkins as an unrestricted free agent from the Los Angeles Chargers. The lone safety on the Jaguars' roster entering the offseason who was drafted by the team was Thomas, with all others either being acquired off waivers or signed as collegiate free agents.
Free agents as of March 17: Jones.
Bucky Brooks' top three free-agent safeties: Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos (franchise tag); Anthony Harris, Minnesota Vikings; Marcus Williams, New Orleans Saints (franchise tag).
Bucky Brooks' top three safety prospects: Trevon Moehrig, Texas Christian; Jevon Holland, Oregon and Caden Sterns, Texas.
Oehser analysis: This position has been solid for the Jaguars in recent seasons, but it hasn't produced game-changing, above-the-Xs-and-Os plays, so it figured to be an area to watch entering the offseason. That very much turned out to be the case. After Meyer said before free agency began that the secondary needed to be addressed, the Jaguars moved quickly at safety during the league's so-called "legal tampering period" and agreed to terms with Jenkins Monday afternoon. He has five interceptions while starting 31 games the past two seasons, and he and free-agent cornerback Shaquill Griffin figure to provide a veteran presence to what projects to be an aggressive secondary under defensive coordinator Joe Cullen. The question now is whether the Jaguars are done at this position for the offseason. Thomas flashed in brief action as a rookie and Wilson has been a solid contributor as a starter the last two seasons, but neither has proven enough to be locks at the spot moving forward. The Jaguars have ample draft capital in the first three rounds, and a young playmaker at the position could be a target in late April.
Brooks' analysis: The best defenses in football have at least one difference-maker at the safety position. The player could make his mark as a center fielder with ball-hawk capabilities or an enforcer with a game built on physicality, toughness and intimidation. The Jaguars need to add an impact player to the lineup to change the trajectory of the defense's performance. Wingard flashed some potential as a spot starter but he isn't a lock to crack the lineup as one of the best 11 defenders on the field. The same could be said for Thomas, who finished his rookie season with a pair of interceptions. With the youngsters poised to compete for playing time as starters or high-end backups, the Jaguars need to upgrade the talent at the position to create more competition with the hopes of finding a difference-maker at an important position.