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"There's No Depth Chart" | DC Ryan Nielsen Using OTAs as a Learning Opportunity

0521 DC Presser Recap

JACKSONVILLE – A word for those wanting precise details about the Jaguars' defense.


It's not that new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen doesn't know how he wants the Jaguars to play defensively next season. It just remains too early to know precisely who will play where.

"We're still in the process of moving guys around," he said.

That was the theme Monday when Nielsen met with the media on Day 1 of Jaguars 2024 Organized Team Activities, which began this week at the Miller Electric Center:

While Nielsen likes the group's potential, he and the Jaguars' defensive coaches remain very much in the process of figuring exact roles, exact positions and how much exact formations will be utilized in exact situations.

It's part of the process as Nielsen takes over the Jaguars' defense after spending last season as the Atlanta Falcons' defensive coordinator – and Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson this week praised the process thus far.

"He's an outstanding guy with the staff," Pederson said, "just getting those guys prepared and introducing his scheme and his philosophy to the defense – and then preparing the players. What I've seen during Phase 2 [of the offseason program], there's a lot of teaching and coaching going on that these guys need.

"He approaches each day as just a learning opportunity and a teaching moment."

Nielsen this week discussed several players on the Jaguars' defense, praising players such as linebacker Devin Lloyd and cornerback Tyson Campbell. He, like Pederson, also emphasized that OTAs aren't about deciding roster spots.

Jacksonville, Fla. — Jaguars linebackers Devin Lloyd (33) and Ventrell Miller (51) during OTAs at the Miller Electric Center on May 20, 2024.

"We told guys this morning, 'There's no depth chart,''' Nielsen said Monday.

When discussing specific position groups such as linebacker and secondary, he emphasized his philosophy that "You can play a lot of years in this league if you can do more jobs."

"We don't want to just pigeon-hole guys right now," he said.

He said while a player such as DaVon Hamilton clearly is a defensive tackle, other players at other levels of the defense "can play two or three positions."

"We're going to put them at these different positions in OTAs because it's a great opportunity to see what guys can do," he said. "Then, as we see their job and if they can do certain jobs, we'll start to fine-tune a package more for their skillset."

He said this is particularly true at linebacker with players such as Lloyd, Chad Muma, Ventrell Miller and Yasir Abdullah.

"We're going to be on the ball and off the ball at the linebacker position," he said. "They'll be moving around – Mike, Will, Sam, all over the place. I really am excited about it, and I think our staff is really excited about that position group because we've got a lot of good players in our defense. But guys can do a lot of different jobs."

As for specific roles for players such as Lloyd and Abdullah, Nielsen added, "They're linebackers. Where we play them, where we put them this part of the year and a couple of weeks into camp, we have an idea. We have a really good idea but we're still in the process of moving guys around."

Jacksonville, Fla. — Jaguars safety Darnell Savage (6) during OTAs at the Miller Electric Center on May 20, 2024.

Nielsen spoke similarly of the secondary where the safety, corner and nickel positions expected to feature various looks for players such as Darnell Savage – who signed as an unrestricted free agent from the Green Bay Packers in March.

"Here's kind of where we're at with it: The depth chart, there is none right now," Nielsen said. "You're going to see a bunch of different combinations because we want to see guys lineup safety, corner and nickel. We want to see them line up at all of these different positions and give everybody an opportunity as we go through the OTA practices.

"It's really important to see the growth, what they can handle, playing different alignments, techniques and positions. Pressure blitzing, covering, fitting the run game … things like that. In the secondary we've got really good depth. We'll see how it goes out there. But really, play one and play eight's going to be a totally different group of guys out there."

And while interior defensive linemen such as Hamilton might already know well their role, Nielsen this week spoke of edge defenders such as Josh Allen also being versatile.

"We can move guys all around," Nielsen said. "Sometimes you're going to see three ends, they're so many multiple things that you can do with guys like that. You can never have enough good players right."

He added, "We want to see what the guys can do. That's what this part of the year is. See how much they can handle, alignments, assignments and the techniques that they're using. We're excited.

"It goes by fast, but guys have done a really good job up until this point."

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