JACKSONVILLE – The run must be stopped. First and foremost.
Defensive coordinator Todd Wash knows it's key against the Indianapolis Colts Sunday and beyond. The Jaguars have coached it for months. They have talked it. They have emphasized it.
Now, they must do it.
"That's the plan," Wash said Thursday as the Jaguars continued preparing for Sunday's regular-season opener at TIAA Bank Field.
Wash spoke to the media via videoconference Thursday, as did middle linebacker Joe Schobert and defense end Josh Allen. As was the case throughout the offseason and preseason when Jaguars defensive players and coaches spoke publicly, run defense was a primary topic.
"You always want to be a top defense in the NFL and it starts up front stopping then run," Schobert said.
The Jaguars didn't do that enough last season, allowing five opponents to rush for more than 200 yards and finishing 28th in the NFL in run defense. The Jaguars during the offseason moved to improve the area, first signing Schobert as an unrestricted free agent and moving former middle linebacker Myles Jack to the weakside.
Wash on Thursday lauded Schobert's instincts in the "box" near the line of scrimmage and said the move to weakside should help Jack.
"He's at his more natural position and we already see that," Wash said of Jack.
The team lost two major free-agent signings – defensive tackle Al Woods (COVID- 19 opt out) and defensive lineman Rodney Gunter (retirement) – in training camp, but Wash said he still believes the elements for improvement remains.
"I think we have some good players," Wash said. "We've got them where were think they fit for us to be able to stop the run. We've gotten a lot bigger up front and I think that was a big part of some of our issues."
Wash on Thursday said a major reason Adam Gotsis, an unrestricted free agent signed from Denver in the offseason, will start at "big" defensive end Sunday is his ability to stop the run on first and second down. The Jaguars also signed free-agent defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan early in camp after losing Woods and Gunter.
Wash said the offseason- and preseason-long emphasis should benefit the area, too.
"We've had great communication with them, talking exactly how we want it where there are no gray areas at all on how we want things played," Wash said. "We really fine-tuned that even more here in the offseason and in training camp. To be honest with you, I think we've done a better job coaching it. In the past, we've kind of assumed some things would get taken care of and they didn't – and that's all on me.
"We're seeing them do exactly what we need them to do. They understand the importance of stopping the run and earning the right to hopefully get in third-and-medium and third-and-long situations so we can rush the passer."
*Wash also cited run defense as a reason for starting safety Josh Jones, who emerged as a starter in camp. Jones, acquired off waivers from Dallas late last season, won the starting job in camp. The Jaguars traded last year's starter, Ronnie Harrison, to the Cleveland Browns for a 2021 draft selection last Thursday. "What we've seen in the past from Josh was not what we've seen since he's been here," Wash said. "He's had a tremendous camp. He's a gym rat and that's something that as a coach you love. He's one of the last ones [to leave] here every day. He's constantly studying. Once again, the emphasis is stopping the run and I think he's going to help us try to do it." …
*Jaguars rookie tight end Tyler Davis missed practice for a second consecutive day with a knee injury, with tight end Tyler Eifert practicing full after a scheduled day off Wednesday. Rookie cornerback Josiah Scott practiced full with a shoulder injury and tight end James O'Shaughnessy and defensive end Adam Gotsis missed practice with a scheduled day off. …