JACKSONVILLE – We move today to the defense.
In the world of 2016 Jaguars post-draft analysis, that's a major move – because indeed, defense is where the biggest offseason changes around this franchise occurred.
General Manager David Caldwell set the '16 offseason tone immediately after a 2015 season in which the Jaguars finished 24th in total defense and 31st in points allowed. Days after the season, Caldwell said the plan was to revamp a defense with an eye on improving a pass defense that struggled much of the season.
He wasn't kidding. Consider the defense very much revamped.
Expect the defense under new coordinator Todd Wash to use multiple players in multiple positions along the front seven, and remember: a "backup" on the depth chart may play a role as big as or bigger than a starter once the game actually begins.
How improved is the defense? How will the new additions shape schemes and situations?
Here's a position-by-position look:
Starter:Dante Fowler Jr.
Others:Ryan Davis, Yannick Ngakoue, Tyrone Holmes, Chris Smith, Quanterus Smith.
Additions: Ngakoue, Holmes.
Departures:Andre Branch, Chris Clemons.
Outlook:Leo will be youth-heavy in 2016, with a dose of help from another position. Fowler, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, is expected to be the starter – and an impact player. Ngakoue, a '16 third-round selection, likely will play an increased role as the season continues as a third-down, passing-situation player. The team also is expected to use Otto linebacker Dan Skuta as a second Leo in passing situations, and Davis could still have a role as an interior rusher in passing situations.
Defensive end/strong side
Others:Tyson Alualu, Jonathan Woodard.
Outlook:This remains a position that looks different on the depth chart than it actually will look on the field. While Odrick likely will start in base situations, the Jaguars' front could have a slew of different looks depending on down-and-distance situations. Three-technique tackles such as Malik Jackson, Sen'Derrick Marks and even rookie Sheldon Day could play strong-side end in passing situations, though Day isn't likely to move around much early in his rookie season. Don't overlook Woodard as a developmental player here. The seventh-round selection has the size and collegiate production the Jaguars like at the position.
Starters:Roy Miller, Malik Jackson.
Others:Sen'Derrick Marks, Michael Bennett, Sheldon Day, Abry Jones, Richard Ash.
Outlook:If there is a position of strength and depth on the roster, this may be it – and good players may not make the regular-season roster here. Jackson was the team's most high-profile free-agent signing, and while he could move around depending on situations, he is expected to provide disruption from three-technique tackle. Although Marks – who missed all but four games with injuries last season – is listed as a backup, he figures to be a key part of a heavy line rotation; he likely will play extensively in passing situations. An intriguing addition is Day, a '16 fourth-round selection and an All-American at Notre Dame; he has pass-rushing skills and the potential to make an impact immediately. Miller is set at nose tackle and played near a Pro-Bowl level last season.
Starters:WLB Telvin Smith, MLB Paul Posluszny, OLB Dan Skuta.
Others: Myles Jack, Thurston Armbrister, Hayes Pullard, Joplo Bartu (OLB), Jordan Tripp (OLB), Sean Porter (OLB).
Outlook:This position may look different at the start of the season than the midway point; while Jack figures to contribute immediately, he could need a few weeks to work into the starting lineup. The Jaguars needed to upgrade speed at linebacker, and with the selection of Jack they now have two of the fastest linebackers in the league in Jack and Smith. Both players will be on the field in passing situations, and the presence of Jack – considered one of the best coverage linebackers to enter the NFL in recent memory – should help the Jaguars' recent issues covering tight ends. Posluszny figures to remain the starting middle linebacker in base situations with Jack playing in passing situations. Skuta figures to have a key role as a pass rusher – and as an outside linebacker in base situations. The Jaguars surprised many by not drafting depth here, but they like what Pullard and Armbrister gave them last season in reserve/special teams roles.
Starters:Davon House, Prince Amukamara.
Others:Jalen Ramsey, Aaron Colvin, Demetrius McCray, Dwayne Gratz, Nick Marshall, Peyton Thompson, Rashad Reynolds, Josh Johnson, Chance Casey, Mike Hilton, Briean Boddy-Calhoun.
Additions:Amukamara, Ramsey, Hilton, Boddy-Calhoun, Johnson, Casey.
Outlook:Like linebacker, this position may look different at the start of the season than the midway point – depending how long Ramsey needs to work his way into the starting lineup. Ramsey, the No. 5 selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, figures to be a long-term answer at corner – and has the size, length and physicality the Jaguars want at the position. He and Amukamara give the Jaguars the added depth they needed – not only while Colvin serves a four-game NFL suspension to start the regular season, but upon his return. The Jaguars now have four front-line corners they can trust. That's real depth and starting-level talent at the position for the first time in some time.
Starters:Johnathan Cyprien (strong safety), Tashaun Gipson (free safety).
Others: Josh Evans, James Sample, Craig Loston, Earl Wolff, Jarrod Wilson.
Outlook:This area underwent no major changes during the draft, but the free-agency signing of Gipson changed the dynamic of the position – and of the secondary. He is expected to start at free safety, providing the sideline-to-sideline, playmaking answer the team has sought there since Head Coach Gus Bradley's 2013 arrival. Gipson is expected to allow Cyprien to focus on playing closer to the line as a box safety, something the team believes is his strength. Sample, despite missing 12 games as a rookie with injuries, has enough size and athleticism to push Cyprien, who needs to perform well to win the job he has held the past three seasons.