With his recent surgery, Jason Babin has come to the forefront as one of the big questions on the Jaguar defense. Acquired off waivers from the Philadelphia Eagles last season, Babin immediately improved, if only slightly, the Jaguar’s pass rush. While he only recorded 1.5 sacks, he was a presence wide off the edge for all five games he played.
Babin had minimal success when he first came into the league in 2004, and he didn’t really become a pass rush force until his first season with the Tennessee Titans in 2010. That year he recorded 12.5 sacks, which he then leveraged to get a five year contract with the Eagles worth over $27 million guaranteed. He followed up his first great season with an impressive 18 sacks in 2011 with the Eagles.
Late in the 2011 season, the Eagles were struggling and decided to cut some high priced veterans loose, making Jason Babin expendable. In a last ditch effort to try and save his job, Gene Smith picked him up off waivers.
Had David Caldwell been in that position last year, I don’t think he would have claimed Babin. Most of us were surprised when it happened last season. Babin is 33 years old and clearly over the hill in his career arc. Babin has been labeled as more of a pure 4-3 defensive end and not a 3-4 linebacker, but how does he fit in Gus Bradley’s defense? Well he seems to be a natural fit for the LEO position.
Eric Stoner had an unbelievably thorough write-up on the LEO position on Big Cat Country, but in essence the LEO is a versatile hybrid position that is assigned to wherever he can have space to rush the passer. He has to be a good athlete and very quick off the snap, something that Babin excelled at in his prime.
Another candidate for the LEO is former second round pick Andre Branch. He seemed overmatched in his rookie season trying to play pure 4-3 defensive end, but the LEO could put him in situations similar to when he succeeded at Clemson.
If the Jaguars had any semblance of depth in the pass rush department, I would have expected Babin to have been cut due to his age and contract. But with the best option behind him being an unproven Andre Branch, Babin is safe for at least one season under the new regime.
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