JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton examine the Jaguars' safeties as the 2020 season approaches
Projected starters: Jarrod Wilson, Ronnie Harrison.
Others: Andrew Wingard, Daniel Thomas, J.R. Reed, Josh Jones, Doug Middleton.
2020 offseason additions: Thomas (fifth-round selection 2020 NFL Draft), Reed (2020 collegiate free agent).
2020 offseason losses: Cody Davis (free agent, New England).
Offseason overview: While the Jaguars were active at most defensive positions this offseason, they stayed somewhat status quo here. The most notable additions were rookies: Thomas, a fifth-round selection from Auburn, and Reed – who played collegiately at the University of Georgia and who was invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. They parted ways with Davis, who played for the Jaguars the past two seasons – primarily as a special teams player.
Oehser analysis: This position hasn't been discussed much this offseason – primarily because there has been so much discussion about cornerback, linebacker and the defensive front. But this area must improve in 2020 – and the improvement may have to come from within. That puts significant pressure on Wilson and Harrison, who are both entering their second full seasons as starters. Wilson was solid and dependable in his first season as a starter last season, but he wasn't an above the Xs-and-Os player – and it's fair to wonder if he can improve significantly, being in his sixth NFL season. A more pressing concern is Harrison: While Wilson entered the NFL as a collegiate free agent, Harrison entered as a third-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft – a third-round safety should be a difference-maker. Harrison showed signs of becoming a playmaker as a rookie in 2018. He flashed at times last season in his first season as a starter last season, but also had some costly mental errors. Depth here also will be something to watch. Thomas figures to make the roster as a sixth-round selection. Reed also figures to have a chance to make the roster, even though it will be challenging for undrafted rookies to make NFL rosters this season with no preseason games. Keep an eye on Jones and Middleton; Jones started 12 games in two seasons with Green Bay and Middleton started four games for the New York Jets in 2018.
Sexton analysis: Will he, or won't he? Harrison might be the Jaguars' most talented defensive back, but his talent has yet to translate on Sundays. He's tall, has length, is a big hitter and owns an Alabama/Nick Saban pedigree – so what's not to like? He has battled a few nagging injuries and more consistency issues than the Jaguars can deal with, so they're expecting their former third-round pick and a guy they've held high expectations for to finally emerge and become the player they drafted. Wilson wasn't drafted and had to earn his opportunity to be a starter in 2019. He's not a No. 1 guy, but if Harrison plays big, then Wilson is a solid starter and a smart, tough and dependable player. You won't mistake him for Earl Thomas or Tyrann Mathieu, but you also won't regret having him on the field if he doesn't have to be that guy. Thomas was the club's sixth-round pick from Auburn; the first word from Alabama was that you won't find a higher-character person – let alone player – and he's a good, solid, tough player in his own right. Wingard is a special-teams-captain kind of player who isn't going to hang with the game's best receivers, but in a pinch, he'll give you a couple of big hits. This can be a solid group – maybe better than solid if Harrison plays to his potential.