JACKSONVILLE – Todd Wash was direct, candidly so.
The Jaguars' defensive coordinator was meeting with the media Friday morning before 2020 Training Camp practice. He was talking about defensive tackle Abry Jones leading a young defensive tackle group when he veered to the subject of run defense.
That Wash has high expectations in this area was evident.
"That's where it starts," Wash said of the interior of the defense. "I told them day one: 'I'm tired of people turning around and just handing the damned ball off and getting four or five yards a crack.'''
The Jaguars ranked 28th in the NFL in run defense last season, allowing 200 or more yards rushing in five games. Wash said he expects to be more hands-on with the defensive tackles this season.
"It starts with the guys up front," Wash said. "That's the damned expectations for them."
The area was a major emphasis for the Jaguars this offseason, with the team signing veteran defensive tackle Al Woods and veteran defensive lineman Rodney Gunter and selecting nose tackle DaVon Hamilton in Round 4 of the 2020 NFL Draft.
"That was a big concern of ours, obviously, going into the draft – to get some of those big wide bodies inside to help us slow this run game down," Wash said. "We need to develop an attitude of stopping the run and earning the right to pass rush."
Woods opted out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19 concerns, and Gunter currently is on the reserve/non-football illness list. The team last weekend placed second-year defensive tackle Dontavius Russell on injured reserve with a hip injury. The team also traded defensive end Calais Campbell, a strong run defender, to the Baltimore Ravens in the offseason.
That makes the continued development of third-year defensive tackle Taven Bryan critical to the run defense, and Wash said it also means Jones – the team's most-tenured player – will be depended upon for leadership in an area that could help determine how the defense fares in 2020.
"The first day we had the vets in the building, 'Abes' and I sat down and I said, 'It's time; it's time for you to really take control,' '' Wash said, noting that the absence of Campbell means Jones and defensive end/linebacker Josh Allen will lead the defensive line.
"'Abes' knows what I expect in that room," Wash said. "He knows how I want it to look. He knows how I want those guys to practice, what I expect in meeting rooms and 'Abes' is going to help us get to that standard – especially with all these new guys."
Also on Friday:
*Wash said he likes the depth at linebacker, with the team having signed middle linebacker Joe Schobert as an unrestricted free agent from Cleveland during the offseason – a move that will allow former starting middle backer Myles Jack to move to the weak side. The team also selected inside linebacker Shaq Quarterman in the fourth round and defensive end/linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson in the first round. "I think we're going to have some solid depth at the linebacker position," he said. "It was very important this offseason that we go out and get football players that are very intelligent. That's one thing we've got with this group, top to bottom.'' …
*Wash on Allen, the No. 7 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft and a Pro Bowl selection following a 10.5-sack rookie season: "He's never satisfied with where he's at. We didn't have an offseason because of COVID, but he came back in shape. You can tell physically that he put the work in in the offseason, which is a credit to him. … He's trying to take that next step, and that's the kind of person he is – which is awesome for us as a coaching staff and as an organization. I think we're going to continue to see him grow as a player and as a person." …