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Week in focus: All about disruption

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JACKSONVILLE -- In a new offseason jaguars.com feature, senior writer John Oehser takes a quick, close look at the week that was around the Jaguars …

Pressure, Pressure, Pressure …

Defensive coordinator Todd Wash talked pass rush Wednesday on Jaguars.com LIVE.

That's a well-worn subject around the Jaguars these days, but Wash – who became coordinator in January after serving as line coach for three seasons and line coach/run-game coordinator in 2015 – offered his own perspective.

"We need to be able to affect the quarterback, first and foremost," Wash said.

Yes, the Jaguars want to improve their sacks after registering 36 this past season. But Wash said equally important will be getting consistent pressure and disruption, which he said has been lacking.

"It's not just sacks," Wash said. "You look at a lot of other defenses who are known as disruptive teams; we had more sacks than they did, but they were greatly higher affecting the quarterback."

Lack of pressure indeed has hurt more than lack of sacks in recent seasons. The 36 sacks in '15 were a drop from 45 in 2016, but still ranked 20th in the NFL. The Jaguars historically have done far worse; in 2009, they ranked last with 14 sacks – and they ranked 30th or worst in four of five seasons from 2009-2013. They never had more than 31 sacks in a season during that span.

More important is bothering the quarterback, and too often this past season the Jaguars were unable to do that in key situations. Even in 2014, when the 45 sacks ranked them sixth in the NFL, they were 29th in the NFL in disruptions.

"That means there are a lot of opportunities where he's not being affected," Wash said. "That's going to affect takeaways, turnovers, bad passes. … Sacks are important; sacks get our players contracts. We all understand that, but for us as a football team, we need to be able to disrupt the quarterback and get the ball for our offense."

 

"Zone eyes" …

Wash also on Jaguars.com LIVE Wednesday provided insight into his defensive philosophy, noting that while he likes to play man coverage in passing situations he prefers zone defense on first and second down.

"There are going to be situations when you need to play man and zone both," he said. "Obviously, you have to have a philosophy on certain down and distances on third down when you have to have tight coverage. There are other downs and distances where you can give them some windows and the quarterback can see some things."

He said one reason is the team's approach of being a team that is sound against the run on early downs.

"You can do that in an eight-man front with man; the linebackers play a little bit more aggressive in man coverage getting downhill versus the run," Wash said. "But with zone, you just have zone eyes. Everybody's looking at the quarterback. When the ball's thrown, you should have all seven, eight guys in the back end breaking toward the ball.

"That's where you see a lot of interceptions, picks and overthrows and that kind of stuff – in zone coverage – because they're breaking on the quarterback."

 

Around the Jaguars …

*Pro Bowl wide receiver Allen Robinson, as he did last offseason, plans to study other top receivers as part of his offseason approach. Julio Jones (Atlanta), Demaryius Thomas (Denver), A.J. Green (Cincinnati) and De'Andre Hopkins (Houston) are among players he will study, and he said Pittsburgh's perennial Pro Bowl receiver, Antonio Brown, is, too. "People say, 'Why would you watch Antonio Brown?''' Robinson said of Brown, who is 5-feet-10, 181 pounds compared to Robinson at 6-3, 215. "At the end of the day, I don't want to be just a down-the-field athletic receiver. As you get deeper into your career, you're not as athletic as you once were, so you can't depend all the time on making all of those uber-athletic plays. Watching guys like Antonio and Odell [Beckham Jr.], watching their footwork and how they get in and out of cuts … I want to implement that into my game now and help me get more separation." …

*Mike Mayock of the NFL Network, who remains the gold standard among NFL Draft analysts, released his position-by-position rankings Wednesday. There were few surprises at the positions many project as the Jaguars' top areas of need, with Joey Bosa of Ohio State ranked as the No. 1 edge rusher and Noah Spence of Eastern Kentucky No. 2. Mayock ranked Jalen Ramsey of Florida State as the No. 1 cornerback, though most analysts believe Ramsey can play either cornerback or free safety in the NFL. …

*Bosa and Ramsey continue to be projected to the Jaguars' selection at No. 5 in many prominent mock drafts. Who would the Jaguars select if both were available? The guess – with an emphasis on "guess" – here is Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell will go pass rusher if all else is equal. …

*Wash also on Wednesday discussed how the team's plan to move defensive end/Leo Dante Fowler Jr. around the front fits into the idea of a disrupting defense. "Is he a 12-to-15 guy? We don't know that," Wash said of Fowler, who missed his rookie season after being the No. 3 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft.  "We think he can be a very disruptive player. It comes back to that. We're going to put him in position to affect the quarterback. If it's sacks … hey, that's good. But he is a very disruptive player.  We need to put him in position – if it's on the edge, in the middle, over the center, whatever it may be – so we can exploit his talents he has." …

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