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Six Things Jaguars Fans Should Know About Their Defensive Coordinator Ryan Nielsen

012324 Who Is Ryan Nielsen

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines six things to know about Ryan Nielsen, who officially was hired as the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator on Monday, January 22.

  1. Nielsen is the former defensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons. Nielsen spent 2023 as the Falcons' defensive coordinator, helping the Atlanta defense improve significantly from the 2022 season. Nielsen in 2023 replaced Dean Pees – a longtime NFL coordinator who retired after the '22 season. The Falcons ranked 18th in points (21.9 per game) allowed in 2023 after ranking 23rd in 2022 (22.7) and ranked 11th in yards allowed in 2023 (321.1) after ranking 27th the previous season (362.1). The Falcons registered 42 sacks in 2023 after registered 21 the previous season.
  2. "A little fiery." Nielsen to in June 2023: "I can be a little fiery, but it's with a passion. You have to be passionate and you have to be yourself. You love the energy on the practice field and the conversations with the players. That's the most important thing, the relationships with the players. You have to be active and listen to guys and get to know them. It's a passionate, fiery game with a lot of emotion and it comes out sometimes."
  3. He has an extensive NFL and college background. Nielsen, 44, has seven seasons NFL experience – having spent 2017-2022 with the New Orleans Saints. He served as the defensive line coach all six seasons. He served as co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach in 2022 and assistant head coach/defensive line coach in 2021. He spent the four seasons before that as defensive line coach at North Carolina State from 2013-2016. He previously coached collegiately at Northern Illinois (2011-2012), Tennessee-Martin (2010), Central Connecticut State (2008-2009), Mississippi (2005-2007) and Southern California (2002).
  4. Attack aggressively. When Falcons players spoke of Nielsen, they emphasized attacking and aggression on defense. Then-rookie cornerback Clark Phillips II to on Nielsen in July 2023: "That has been something that has been yelled at us from Day 1. I am super grateful for Ryan Nielsen and the way that he coaches because I feel like it resonates throughout the whole defense. Everybody is trying to play on that same string of things: Attack guys aggressively." Then-Falcons senior defensive assistant Dave Huxtable: "It starts with Ryan. From Day 1 it was, 'Attack. Aggressive. Attack. Aggressive. Attack. Aggressive.' " Said safety Jessie Bates: "The way he attacks things every day – he always talks about attack and aggressive – whether we're on the field or in the meeting room or the weight room. He wants us to attack and be aggressive with everything we do."
  5. "Excellent teacher." Arthur Smith, then the head coach of the Falcons, lauded Nielsen last offseason and called the then-first-year coordinator "an excellent teacher." Former Jaguars defensive lineman Calais Campbell, then with the Falcons, agreed and added: "He had me do something a little different. His way actually felt a lot better. I like that, which is an example of really good coaching. He helped me see what I couldn't see myself. In my 16th year you don't expect that too often, but it was a good feeling. The techniques of playing the game, from hand placement to footwork and the nuances that go into the position, are important. There are a lot of different ways to do things and I've played a lot of different ways. The way he coaches it, the way he sees it, is the way I like to do it." Said then-Falcons outside linebacker Bud Dupree: "Ryan is intense; he's a great guy, though, very learned. He knows a ton about football. He's always trying to squeeze something out of the game for you so you can have a greater effect on the game. I like him as a coach, one of the better coaches in this league."
  6. "Hardcore." Saints defensive end Carl Granderson to the Athletic on Nielsen in 2021: "His coaching style is pretty much hardcore. He focuses and is big on technique and effort. He coaches pretty hard. He wants us to be big, nasty [defensive] linemen so we can play out there and destroy people. His coaching style has come a long way. It's hardcore. You have to have tough skin in order to play D-line for the New Orleans Saints."

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