Jaguars Training Camp: How good can this defensive line be?
By David Levin
Will the Jaguars use a different kind of defensive front this coming season to pressure the quarterback?
How would a Jaguars defensive line of Yannick Ngakoue and Josh Allen at the end positions and Marcell Dareus and Calais Campbell in the middle stack against other NFL teams? You would be hard-pressed to find more than a few units as good as the one assembled in Jacksonville.
Would the Jaguars, who want to reduce the number of snaps Calais Campbell gets this season, move the Pro Bowl pass rusher inside to maximize the play-making opportunities for Ngakoue and the rookie from Kentucky?
I would say it’s a strong possibility. Not on every play, but in some packages designed by defensive coordinator Todd Wash.
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After finishing second in the NFL with 55 sacks in 2017, the Jaguars plummeted in 2018 with 37. That was good enough to tie for 22nd in the league last season. With all the injuries this team suffered last season, the defensive line remained healthy but took a major step back in production despite the team finishing fifth in overall defense last season.
"“Hopefully we win first and second down a lot so we can get in there,” Campbell told Phillip Heilman of The Athletic after practice with the Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday. “It’s going to be fun to see. If we get people in third-and-long with our front four, it’s going to be scary.”"
Scary, indeed. While Wash insists the Jaguars will continue to play a base 4-3 defense this coming season, look for some wrinkles that allow for Campbell, Ngakoue, and Allen to be on the field at the same time, giving opposing quarterbacks nightmares. What Wash and his staff see as training camp has evolved is a group of players who are hungry and determined to make sure they rise back to the top of the NFL rankings this season.
Now that Ngakoue is back, the defense will play at a higher level. Once he returned to the practice field on Sunday, head coach Doug Marrone said he was ready to line up and go without being held back. Having three competent pass rushers is a luxury, but it also means there must be enough snaps for all of them to get playing time. Allen is learning to play at a higher, faster level. His education was stunted by a knee contusion on the first day of OTAs and was held out of the nine remaining sessions and the three-day mandatory minicamp.
Since the start of training camp, the rookie has shown signs that he will be a solid contributor on this defensive line.
As odd as it sounds, Dareus could be the most underrated defensive tackle in the league based on who he plays with on this line. His performance in camp is something Marrone was asked about last week.
"“Yeah, he’s good. He seems in a good place. He’s happy, trying to get better each day. I think that he’s someone that has a ton of potential,” Marrone said. “I think he’s someone that can be one of the more elite players at that position, but like all elite players, you’ve got to work yourself and get yourself back into it because when you play up front, there’s a physical part of the game, and Marcell has that.”"