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Week in focus: A secondary key

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JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser takes a final look around the Jaguars as they approach their game against the Cincinnati Bengals at EverBank Field Sunday …

A secondary key

Much-discussed or not, when it comes to the Jaguars' defense, Tashaun Gipson is key.

Entering their Week 3 Preseason game against Cincinnati Sunday, the Jaguars feel as good about their pass coverage as they have felt in a long time.

The offseason additions of cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and Prince Amukamara are important reasons for that. They give the team at least four high-level cornerbacks – Amukamara, Ramsey, Davon House and Aaron Colvin – compared to two (Colvin and House) last season.

But Gipson, the unrestricted free agent signee from the Cleveland Browns, is equally important – something that started to become evident in his first Jaguars preseason appearance last week. It also was evident listening to Jaguars coaches this week.

Bradley early in the week said while Gipson perhaps didn't make noticeable plays against Tampa Bay on Saturday, his presence was evident reviewing the game.

"Sometimes you do not notice him," Bradley said. "Sometimes we had plays last year where we felt like the free safety had a chance to make the play and we didn't. With him [Gipson], we do not have those conversations."

Bradley added that Gipson was "was in good spots as far as where his drops were … so he took some things away. Because of that, it kind of appears silent, like he was not involved much, but as a coaching staff and seeing the scheme we appreciate him."

An obvious strength of Gipson's is as a sideline-to-sideline free safety, a skill that helped him make the Pro Bowl in 2014. Wash said Gipson's presence in the run game will help, too.

"He is a difference-maker in the hole," Wash said. "He comes out of the hole, he is in position to make tackles, which was an issue for us last year with some of the explosive runs we gave up. We're excited and look forward to seeing him this week."

 

OPPORTUNITY TIME

Myles Jack's eventual role this season remains uncertain.

The rookie second-round selection has been working mostly with the second team at middle linebacker. When Wash was asked this week if Jack being on the field in an Otto role with middle linebacker Paul Posluszny and weak-side linebacker Telvin Smith, he replied, "We're evaluating the whole package right now.

"We want to get our best players on the field," Wash said. "It's something that we are continuing to look at and evaluate defensively. I wouldn't rule it out, but at the same time we feel comfortable with Dan Skuta at the Otto spot on first and second down. It is a never-ending evaluation."

Jack's speed and playmaking ability makes it likely he will be on the field in a key role early in some capacity. That may not be as a starter immediately, and speculation throughout training camp has been he could play in a nickel role early in the season. That could either be with Smith or Posluszny.

Wash said this week Jack's knowledge of the defense is increasing steadily – and that learning the defense remains the priority.

"He's another guy that physically has all of the skills in the world and he's learning that it's not just physical," Wash said. "You got to get it all mentally and he's doing a nice job."

Wash said Jack likely will get reps with the first team at middle linebacker Sunday, adding that was because Posluszny as a veteran doesn't need as many preseason first-team reps as a younger player.

 

AROUND THE JAGUARS

*A few things were evident listening to Wash this week. One is that the team is pushing Dante Fowler Jr. to become a pro in a hurry and another is that Wash feels good about the depth on the defensive line. Another? That Ramsey's physicality has impressed the coaching staff. Ramsey played 17 plays in his first NFL action Saturday, making three tackles. Wash discussed extensively a 6-yard-tackle for loss the rookie No. 5 overall selection made on the game's first series. "They ran power right at him against Tampa and he came in there and knife-tackled the back," Wash said. "He did not turn the cheek at all. We're very excited about that." …

*It is becoming more apparent by the week how much the Jaguars like Brandon Linder at center. The third-year veteran played guard his first two seasons, but moved to center early in the offseason. The idea was to get the team's best interior lineman at the most important offensive line position, and the reviews have been favorable. Bradley and quarterback Blake Bortles in the last week both have praised not only Linder's on-field performance but his off-field approach. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson on Thursday said he liked Linder's communication against the Buccaneers Saturday. "That is big – also the physical nature that he brings to the guys up front," Olson said. "He has been a great leader for that group. He was before when he was playing guard. Now it is a more natural position for him at the center position. He has done very well."

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