Sep 22, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars safety Johnathan Cyprien (37) forces a fumble by Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks defeated the Jaguars 45-17. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

How the Jacksonville Jaguars Can Make the Playoffs in 2014 – Defensive Back


Dec 15, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Buffalo Bills running back CJ Spiller (28) runs the ball as he is met by Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Dwayne Gratz (27) during the first half of the game at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

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
Inside LB No N/A
Outside LB Yes Draft (4-7) or FA
Cornerback No N/A
Safety No N/A

David Caldwell went into his first offseason as general manager and aggressively addressed the defensive backfield via the draft and free agency. The Jaguars ended up with new starters at every position and the result was a much improved defensive backfield. Caldwell decided to let veterans Rashean Mathis, Derek Cox, and Dawan Landry go in favor of younger players.

After a rough start, second round pick Johnathan Cyprien finished the season strong and showed some potential as a big hitter and playmaker at the safety position. He showed significant improvement in coverage as the year went along and all the experience from his rookie season should help him start fast in 2014. He was joined in the back end by fellow rookie Josh Evans, who should have probably been limited to a special teams role. He could develop into a quality starter down the road, but he had too much on his plate as a rookie.

Third round pick Dwayne Gratz was banged up for some of his rookie campaign, but he proved himself to be an ideal fit in Gus Bradley’s scheme when he was on the field. He and free agent pickups Alan Ball and Will Blackmon were outstanding most of the season and are a real strength on the defense.

The Jaguars have a perfect blend of youth and veteran presence in the defensive backfield and should put very little focus on corner and safety in the draft. Some undrafted free agents or veterans off the waiver wire can come in and compete, but Caldwell seems to have hit the mark with the 4 draft picks he spent on defensive backs and his free agent signings.

 

- Daniel Lago

Yell at me on Twitter @dlago89

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft Jacksonville Jaguars