With the playoffs in full swing, one can’t help but wonder if the Jacksonville Jaguars can make the playoffs next year. When David Caldwell was first hired as general manager, the conservative thinking was he would need three years to restore this roster from the dumpster fire Gene Smith assembled.
Early on in the 2013 season, it seemed as if Caldwell would need a lot more time for a team that looked destined for an 0-16 record. Somehow Head Coach Gus Bradley inspired this team to 4 wins and suddenly the outlook of the team in 2014 looked a lot less bleak.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are still going to need a lot of help, specifically from the 2014 NFL draft, to improve to compete for a playoff spot. Here are some of the spots where the Jaguars can improve on defense this offseason and how.
|Position||Need to Improve?||How? (Round)|
|Defensive Tackle||Yes||Draft (3-7) or FA|
|Defensive End||Yes||Draft (1-7) or FA|
|Outside LB||Yes||Draft (4-7) or FA|
David Caldwell completely reconstructed the interior defensive line before the 2013 season through free agency. Roy Miller, Brandon Deaderick, Kyle Love, and Sen’Derrick Marks comprised a ragtag squad of newcomers meant to anchor the defensive line. The only impact player of that group ended up being Marks. On the way to a well deserved contract extension, Marks tallied 4 sacks and 24 QB hurries.
While Marks provided a much needed interior pass rush, the Jaguars didn’t really get the run stuffer they expected in Roy Miller. Miller ended the season with a -7.6 run defense grade according to Pro Football Focus, the 9th worst score for defensive tackles in the NFL.
The Jaguars really need to find some productive interior linemen to rotate in and keep Marks fresh. Marks played 946 snaps in 2013, the third most of any defensive tackle behind only Dontari Poe and Gerald McCoy.
The draft presents several talented prospects, but none of the top guys are probably worth the third overall pick. The Jaguars should have some good players available starting in the second round however if a guy like Will Sutton falls to them.
The Jaguars could also take a chance with a couple guys in free agency. Young players like Henry Melton and Vance Walker could be available thanks to a host of issues and may just need a different environment to flourish. Regardless, the Jaguars need help along the defensive line to compete next year.
– Daniel Lago
Yell at me on Twitter @dlago89