JACKSONVILLE – Letting things be was not an option.
Yes, the Jaguars finished sixth in the NFL in total defense last season. And yes, there were times the unit played very well and kept the team in games.
But this was not an elite defense last season.
So, while the Jaguars hardly overhauled a defense that eight times held opponents under 300 yards, they made major moves at every level of a defense that also struggled too often to force turnovers and pressure quarterbacks in key situations.
The Jaguars in the offseason not only signed high-profile free agents such as defensive end Calais Campbell, safety Barry Church and cornerback A.J. Bouye, they also moved Myles Jack from strong-side to middle linebacker in an effort to get the talented 2016 second-round draft selection on the field for three downs rather than just early downs.
Here's a position-by-position look at the Jaguars' defense with the draft over, with Phase 3 of the offseason program approaching and with 2017 rookie minicamp now very much at hand:
Defensive tackles (7)
Projected starters:Abry Jones, Malik Jackson.
Projected reserves/others: Michael Bennett, Sheldon Day, Louis Nix, Stefan Charles, Tueni Lupeamanu.
Offseason to date:The Jaguars re-signed Jones to a four-year extension, releasing veterans Roy Miller III and Sen'Derrick Marks. They also signed Lupeamanu as a collegiate free agent and Stefan Charles as an unrestricted free agent from the Detroit Lions.
The storyline now:Jones and Jackson are very much set as starters here, with Day – a fourth-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft – impressing as a rookie and Bennett showing flashes during his 2015 rookie season. The Jaguars not unexpectedly didn't address this area in the draft, in part because Campbell likely will move inside at times in passing situations – and because of the free-agent signing of the 323-pound Charles.
Defensive ends (9)
Projected starters:Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue.
Projected reserves/others:Dante Fowler Jr., Jonathan Woodard, Dawuane Smoot, Lerentee McCray, Malliciah Goodman, Carroll Phillips, Hunter Dimick.
Offseason to date:The Jaguars signed Campbell as a high-profile free agent in March and also signed McCray as a special-teams player and reserve end. They selected Smoot in the third round of the draft before signing Phillips and Dimick as collegiate free agents following the draft. The team released veteran Jared Odrick and allowed veteran Tyson Alualu to sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an unrestricted free agent. The Jaguars also traded end Chris Smith to Cincinnati.
The storyline now:The Jaguars were active in this area on draft weekend, making this one of the more intriguing areas to watch the rest of the offseason. Smoot as a third-round selection could and perhaps should be expected to be part of the line rotation as a rookie, and both Phillips and Dimick were among the team's more high-profile collegiate free-agent signings. One could push for a roster spot, but with McCray likely on the team as a special teamer and backup – and with the team also liking Woodard, a 2016 seventh-round selection – competition for roster spots here will be intense.
Projected starters: Paul Posluszny, Myles Jack, Telvin Smith.
Projected reserves/others: Hayes Pullard, Audie Cole, Josh McNary, Blair Brown, P.J. Davis, Justin Horton.
Offseason to date:The Jaguars signed McNary and Cole as unrestricted free agents, selecting Brown in Round 5 of the '17 draft and signing Davis and Horton as collegiate free agents.
The storyline now:The starters at linebacker are essentially set, with Jack moving to the middle from the strong side and Posluszny moving to strong from middle. The major focus of the offseason will be Jack's transition to the key position of the group, and how well he handles the responsibility of calling the defense at the line of scrimmage. An offseason storyline also will be who makes the team at reserve linebacker. Brown seems assured of a roster spot because of special teams and depth, with Pullard also playing well as a backup in recent seasons. The team signed Cole and McNary for special teams and depth. The Jaguars are deeper and more experienced here than before, but still seem likely to keep just three reserves here. Reserve linebacker on this roster next season will have to be really good on special teams.
Projected starters:Barry Church, Tashaun Gipson.
Projected reserves/others:Peyton Thompson, James Sample, Jarrod Wilson, Charlie Miller.* *
Offseason to date:The Jaguars signed Church as an unrestricted free agent and allowed strong-safety Johnathan Cyprien to sign with the Tennessee Titans as an unrestricted free agent. They signed Miller as a collegiate free agent shortly after the '17 draft.
The storyline now:This continues to seem an area in which the team could sign an unrestricted free agent in the coming weeks. Church and Gipson are pretty much locked in as the starters, and the team likes Thompson as a backup free safety. Sample has played sparingly in two seasons because of injury and must stay healthy to fulfill his potential as a 2015 fourth-round draft selection.
Projected starters:Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye.
Projected reserves/others:Aaron Colvin, Jalen Myrick, Josh Johnson, Doran Grant, Jeremy Cutrer, Akeem Davis, Tracy Howard, Ezra Robinson.
Offseason to date:The Jaguars signed Bouye as an unrestricted free agent from the Houston Texans and allowed Prince Amukamara to sign with the Chicago Bears as an unrestricted free agent. They then selected Myrick in the seventh round of the draft and signed Cutrer and Robinson as collegiate free agents.
The storyline now:This is another spot where a free agent or waiver veteran still makes sense. Ramsey and Bouye are the outside corners, with Colvin having excelled at the nickel during most of his three seasons. The team likes the speed of Myrick and Johnson played well in spots as a reserve last season.