Will the Jacksonville Jaguars make the defensive line their top priority in the 2020 NFL Draft in April?
The Jaguars could not stop the run game last season. Part of the reason was the injury to defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. The front office must improve this position through the draft or possibly free agency or maybe both.
A recent story about the Jacksonville Jaguars here on Black and Teal described the Todd Wash defense and the players needed to improve in 2020. There are several critical needs but none as critical as defensive tackle. It is painful to watch opposing teams running through the defensive line like a knife through butter.
So what traits must a successful defensive tackle exhibit? He must get off the ball quickly at the line to contain the run or push the opposing guard back into the quarterback. It’s not his primary job but he should be able to rush the passer when needed.
"According to the late former coach Bill Walsh, “Quick strong hands to grab and pull are critical. The hands, the arms, the upper body strength, and then the quick feet take advantage of the moving man, just getting him off balance.”"
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Another critical word is anchor. It is his job to hold his position and allow his more glamorous teammates to make the big plays. Despite his size, he must be able to move laterally. Size is very important. A nose tackle will weigh above 300 pounds and a defensive tackle will weigh in at about 275-plus. Each is critical to an effective pass rush or run defense.
Despite the lack of accolades, there have been some great defensive tackles in the NFL including Aaron Donald of the Rams, Richard Seymour of the Patriots and Raiders, and my personal favorite Warren Sapp of the Buccaneers.
The defensive linemen on the Jaguars current roster are Dareus, Taven Bryan, Carl Davis, Abry Jones, Akeem Spence, and Dontavius Russell. They are all over 300 pounds with the exception of Taven Bryan at 291 pounds. It is unlikely that Dareus will return due to salary cap issues. Davis, Jones, and Spence are journeymen. Bryan is a first-round draft choice who (despite some late-season improvement) has not lived up to expectations, and Russell has basically not played. They are backups but no true starters.
There are some solid defensive tackles on the free-agent market in 2020.
Chris Jones (Chiefs) and Grady Jarrett (Falcons) are top of the line and will be paid accordingly. Michael Brockers (Rams), Leonard Williams (Jets), and Jarran Reed (Seahawks) are great prospects but may not be possible due to salary cap issues.
The best potential draft choice according to numerous draft reports starts with Derrick Brown from Auburn. He is a top run defender and is considered a first-round talent. Tedarrell Slaton from Florida was great at the point of attack and may be available in the second or third round. Neville Gallimore from Oklahoma is a great fit for the 4-3 defense and is projected to be drafted in rounds 2 or 3.
Its obvious many other players may rise or fall at the Combine. Free agents may sign with other teams. This is just the beginning of what I think is a look at the most critical position to make the Jaguars a winner in 2020.