2019 NFL Draft: 3 Needs for the Jaguars defense
With the NFL Draft arriving this week, the Jaguars may look to strengthen their strength and add defense to ensure that last year will not be repeated.
Entering the 2018 season, the Jaguars walked out with confidence on the defensive side of the ball. Throughout the previous 2017 season, the national media hailed the defense as a certain rarity that could potentially even carry the entire team to the Super Bowl.
A team that unfortunately fielded an inconsistent quarterback, average line play and a lack of stars on offense, to say the least. This led to the defense having a “bad” season.
During the 2018 season those praises disappeared as the losses piled up and the conversation warped into more about what could have been. Losses were fueled by horrific offensive play and what seemed to be a completely exhausted defense both physically and mentally. The defense was exhausted by playing more minutes than the offense, exhausted by having to shoulder a responsibility to win the game, and exhausted by being the only chance the team held of snatching a win from their opponent.
This unit never got the chance to be simply a good defense. They were required to be the 1985 Bears.
Looking to fuel a strength this off-season, the Jaguars may surprise the fan base, just as they did last season with taking now 3-tech defensive tackle Taven Bryan when interior line seemed to be a strength. With that in mind, here’s three things that could help the defense return to complete and utter dominance.
1. Stop The Run – Top 5 in scoring (19.8), passing (194.6), and total yards per game (311.4) the Jaguars defense faltered in one major area – run defense. Despite having the giant himself, Calais Campbell, who produced the number one grade against the run for a defensive lineman in 2018, the team finished with only the 19th best total yards per game against the run, with 116.9 allowed per game.
This situation could potentially grow worse as Campbell ages and the Jaguars should do all they can to add run-stopping capability on the team. This may come in the form of another defensive lineman, a run-stopping member of the secondary, or more linebackers for a ‘big’ package in obvious running situations.
Look for this to be a top theme throughout the draft.
2. Address Safety – Jarrod Wilson now sits as the top free safety on the board and unless the team adds talent, he will remain there. While playing well in spurts, most especially late in the 2017 season and playoffs when then-starter Tashuan Gipson had a few injuries, Wilson likely doesn’t become the next great safety in the league.
He could be replaced down the line or moved back into a depth situation depending on the coming influx of talent. If he starts, he could be serviceable for a while but don’t expect him to be a Pro Bowler. Ronnie Harrison will start at strong safety and likely continue good development for his already good vision and nice tackling.
The current group can play but the team did take a hit releasing Gipson this off-season.
3. Pass Rush Depth – Yannick Ngakoue possesses a unique ability to strip the ball and that stays in the mind of a quarterback throughout the game. Jaguars fans are lucky to watch him week in and week out, but the man needs help.
The previously mentioned Campbell sits only two years removed from setting the Jaguars single-season sack record with 12.5, passing Tony Brackens by a half sack. Behind the two of them are guys that may be good and may not be good. The bench is not assured of talent and the top-ten of the NFL Draft in 2019, is most assuredly full of talent on the defensive side of the ball.
Current executive Tom Coughlin loves to collect defensive line talent – the primary reason he accumulated two Super Bowl rings while in New York. Never doubt that Coughlin will draft a defensive lineman.
In 2018, the Jaguars held their opponents to a respectable 19.8 points per game. The general rule in the NFL remains that you should win the game if your defense holds the opponent to 17 points or less.
Last year, the Jaguars needed to hold their opponents to under 15.3 points per game to keep the score below the average offensive output. Think about that.
After a relatively great season on defense, the Jaguars have a few holes to plug to ensure the continued strength of identity on this team. Let’s hope everything moves forward as we enter and then exit the mayhem of the 2019 NFL Draft.