JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and Jaguars analyst Bucky Brooks examine the Jaguars' secondary in this position-by-position look at the '22 offseason
Position coach: Passing game coordinator/cornerbacks Deshea Townsend, safeties Cody Grimm.
2021 starters: CB Shaquill Griffin (14), CB Nevin Lawson (4), CB Chris Claybrooks (2), CB CJ Henderson (2), CB Tyson Campbell (14), CB Tre Herndon (3), S Andrew Wingard (15), S Daniel Thomas (2), S Rayshawn Jenkins (14), S Andre Cisco (3), S Rudy Ford (4).
Others: Brandon Rusnak.
2021 at a glance: The season was one of transition for the secondary, with three of four primary starters – Griffin, Campbell and Jenkins – new to the team and with Wingard having started six games in his first two NFL before starting the first 15 games in '21. That made it essentially a new secondary, with a significant change also occurring in later September when the team traded Henderson – the No. 9 overall selection by the Jaguars in the 2020 NFL Draft – to the Carolina Panthers in a deal that brought the Jaguars a third-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft and tight end Dan Arnold. Griffin, who signed as an unrestricted free agent from the Seattle Seahawks, had seven passes defensed with 49 tackles and two pressures in 2021. Campbell, the No. 33 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, led the team with two interceptions and 10 passes defensed and developed in the second half of the season after moving into the starting lineup following the Henderson trade. Jenkins started the first 14 games of the season before a season-ending ankle injury and had 66 tackles with three passes defensed. Wingard finished third on the team with 86 tackles and had an interception with a pass defensed.
Offseason storyline: This position may not have been a major offseason focus, but the team made a significant move at the start of the NFL's 2022 League Year, signing cornerback Darious Williams as an unrestricted free agent. Williams, who played the past four seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, can play either inside or outside – and if he plays inside at nickel corner, he gives the Jaguars an experienced player who potentially solidifies the secondary at that position. The Jaguars also recently signed cornerback Xavier Crawford as an unrestricted free agent from the Chicago Bears, adding veteran depth and a potential returner on special teams. Wingard re-signed with the team after entering the offseason as a restricted free agent.
Bucky Brooks' top secondary prospects: CB Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner, Cincinnati; CB Andrew Booth, Clemson; CB Derek Stingley, Louisiana State; S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame; CB Daxton Hill, Michigan; S Jaquan Brisker, Penn State.
Offseason acquisitions: Williams (Rams), Crawford (Bears).
Offseason departures: Lawson (unrestricted free agent).
Oehser analysis: This is an intriguing area for the Jaguars, with the cornerback position a potential strength with the addition of Williams giving the team three recent high-equity acquisitions at corner: Griffin (2021 free agent), Williams (2022 free agent) and Campbell (2021 No. 33 overall selection). Griffin performed capably in the lead corner role last season, at times "following" the opponent's best receiver and playing well in coverage despite multiple dropped opportunities for interceptions. Campbell, after struggling early tracking the ball in the air, was among the team's major success stories in the final three months of the season and showed signs of potentially being a primary corner. A storyline to watch here in 2022: the development of Cisco, who played sparingly on defense for the first 14 games before starting the final three games and playing well following Jenkins' season-ending injury in December. The Jaguars' last season didn't create enough turnovers as a defense and finished with just seven interceptions, including six by the secondary. But Campbell appears to have a knack in that area, as does Cisco – the latter of whom had 13 interceptions in college. As the Jaguars' pass rush improves, and as Cisco/Campbell develop, the Jaguars' secondary must create more opportunities and game-turning plays.
Brooks analysis: After a rocky start, the Jaguars' revamped secondary started to show promise with Griffin, Jenkins and Ford leading the way. The veterans helped the unit clean up the blown assignments and mistakes that plagued the secondary's play early in the season. And they helped Campbell grow into his role as a starter on the island. Although Cisco failed to crack the rotation for most of the season, the ballhawk should be able to parlay his experiences at the end of the season into a bigger role next year. With Williams coming on board to play outside or inside as the third starter at cornerback, the Jaguars have assembled a secondary full of seasoned veterans and emerging youngsters to challenge opponents in a more aggressive scheme. The unit must find a way to create more turnovers after registering just seven interceptions in 2021, but more experience and better chemistry could result in more big plays from the secondary this season.