The Jacksonville Jaguars had a successful season if you close your eyes and only look at the progression and production of the offense, but they were a historically bad defense on several accounts. The Jaguars allowed 28 points per game (ranked 31st in the league in front of only the New Orleans Saints) and they let opponents convert an embarrassingly high 46.3% of their third downs (also 31st in the NFL in front of only the New York Giants).
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The main culprit in the Jaguars defensive struggles was the complete lack of a pass rush (we missed you Dante Fowler Jr.), but all 3 levels of the defense played very poorly at different points.
If you want to be positive and find one bright spot on defense, look no further than second year linebacker Telvin Smith. After struggling early in the season and in spurts during his rookie year, Smith finished the year strong. He’s become a stout run defender and a menace to running backs who try to get to the edge or get into open space on screens. With Sen’Derrick Marks effectively gone this entire year, Smith was probably the best and most reliable player on that side of the ball.
Pro Football Focus agrees and they have Smith graded as the best Jacksonville player on defense.
"Jacksonville Jaguars: Telvin Smith, LB, 64.7Signature stat: 61 defensive stops (team-high)Smith offered some of the very few bright moments on a desperately disappointing defense in Jacksonville this season. Smith started slowly with eight missed tackles in the first four weeks of the year, but finished strong—only four other linebackers earned a higher grade after the first six weeks of the season."
While they do say some nice things about the weakside linebacker, one indictment is that Smith’s grade is that it is by far the lowest of any of the players in the linked piece. The next lowest graded defender was Karlos Dansby (72.0) on the Cleveland Browns.
Smith will improve with time (and possibly a little bit of added weight), but he’s not an elite, playmaking linebacker. His play will get better once he has better (or just less awful) pieces around him.