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View from the O-Zone: New or old, Wash can help fix defense


JACKSONVILLE – Meet the new staff … same as the old staff?

There will be those who say that about the changes announced by the Jaguars Friday morning. And without question: the opinion that the Jaguars didn't change defensively on Friday – or at least that they didn't change enough – is understandable.

Todd Wash, the man now defensive coordinator? Familiar.

The major defensive assistants? They're the same, too. And the man whose philosophy is the Jaguars' defensive philosophy, Head Coach Gus Bradley?

He remains very much the same – and, in fact, had his contract extended a year on Friday.

So, what changed? Wash, the defensive line coach in 2013 and 2014 and the run-game coordinator/line coach this past season, now will coordinate the defense. That's Friday's major change in words.

What will change in fact?

That's what time will tell, and it's what Wash explained late Friday morning.

"I don't float in the gray," Wash said during his introductory press at EverBank Field Friday. "Our players want discipline and details. That's what they're going to get from me."

Wash said more Friday, and Bradley said a lot, too. They discussed an unusual hiring process, one in which Wash sat in on interviews with four other candidates although he in no way was guaranteed the job.

They discussed defensive changes, and discussed in detail the possibility – nay, probability -- of moving Dante Fowler Jr. around in the defense next season.

In the big picture, Bradley made clear that while he went into the hiring process with an open mind, his comfort and trust in Wash – a longtime friend – was a huge reason for the choice.

"Todd Wash and I have a strong relationship and one I trust," Bradley said. "One thing about Wash is he'll set his ego aside."

That enabled Wash to sit in the interviews knowing he wouldn't necessarily get the job. It also enabled Bradley to know Wash to put team first and ego second.

That's interesting stuff, but what, exactly, does Friday's news mean? A couple of details:

Images from Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley's and new Defensive Coordinator Todd Wash's introductory press conference.

*Wash will call plays. There had been speculation that Bradley – the Seahawks' defensive coordinator from 2009-2012 – could take over the duties. Bradley said he considered it, and that he will be more involved in the defense, but the duties will go to Wash.

*Any scheme changes will be minor. Wash's knowledge of Bradley's defense mattered in the hiring. While Wash said the defense won't be exactly the same, the key elements – strong emphasis on the Leo pass-rushing defensive end, strong emphasis on stopping the run on early downs – will remain.

"Our scheme is not broken," Wash said. "We just need to fix some things."

Wash didn't provide many specifics about what that means, nor would you expect him to do so at this early stage. He emphasized needing to get players playing better.

"I just know we're going to play more disciplined and play more assignment-sound football," Wash said.

If there was a theme to Wash's presser Friday, may have been it.

Bradley's theme was more varied, because he had a couple of issues to discuss. One was Wash, and without question this is a key hire that could decide not only the Jaguars' immediate future, but his own.

The other issue was his contract extension. What does the year added change? Perhaps not much. If the Jaguars don't improve next season, Owner Shad Khan can make a change as easily as would have been the case had he not extended Bradley and the staff – more expensively yes, but just as easily.

Mostly, it gives potential free agents a clearer idea of Khan's commitment to Bradley, to this building process. As for Bradley, he emphasized the fact that his assistants also received a year's extension.

"That's unbelievable, isn't it?" Bradley said.

There was real joy in Bradley when he said that, and there was real joy when discussing Wash on Friday. It's clear Bradley believes in Wash, and it's clear he believes this move and this system will work.

Don't think Friday didn't mark change. The defense will be different. Just how different will be something we study over the next few months, and something we learn in September.

In the end, of course, players matter more than coaches, which means the return of Fowler and defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks – and the addition of what likely will be a multiple starters – could have as much impact as Wash. Probably more.

But it will be Wash's job to get the most out of those players, and to improve the attention to detail and the disciple. There seems little reason he won't do that.

No, this wasn't a crowd-pleasing, make-Twitter-happy hire. It wasn't about splash.

It was about making the Jaguars' defense better, and it's about fixing a defense that may not be broke, but definitely some big-time TLC.

Can Wash help make that happen?

Absolutely, and whether he's old or new or familiar or unfamiliar doesn't matter a bit.

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