The Jacksonville Jaguars interior defensive line has its work cut out for itself this season trying to stop their opponents’ running game.
The Jacksonville Jaguars won’t surprise anyone in the NFL this season if the interior defensive line cannot stop the run. It’s a reoccurring theme for this football team. Stop the run and there is a chance the Jaguars will win more games in 2020.
As with everything in football life, talking about changing the direction of the defense is one thing. Putting those words into motion, making the necessary changes is a bit tougher – especially in this virtual time warp the Jacksonville Jaguars and the other 31 teams in the NFL face right now with the threat of COVID-19 still a very real situation.
As part of defensive coordinator Todd Wash’s coaching staff, no coach has more responsibility to make that happen than Jason Rebrovich, the Jacksonville Jaguars defensive line coach. Last season could be viewed as a nightmare, watching opposing running backs run through and around the interior line. Now, it’s a chance to prove the players the Jaguars brought in this offseason will make a difference in the coming months.
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“There’s no secret behind it,” Rebrovich said via Jaguars.com. “Unfortunately, our run defense has plummeted in the last two years. Our division (the AFC South) makes us have to be more run oriented. To beat those teams, you must start stopping the run.”
If the Jaguars want to erase what happened in 2019, where running backs feasted on the team’s defensive middle, this roster must be a bit tougher, a bit more athletic, and a bit more fundamental. The three objectives go hand-in-hand with trying to escape two seasons of losing football that has left this organization searching for simple answers and finding little results.
While stopping the run was an issue, the Jaguars pass rush was intimidating last season, finishing seventh in the league in sacks. That ranking will be tested this season with new personnel and the team having traded Calais Campbell to the Baltimore Ravens and the status of pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue still up in the air.
Everyone on the coaching staff is making adjustments like the players who have been on the roster in 2019 and those who have signed as free agents or were drafted to come in and improve what has been fractured the previous two campaigns.
“Our personnel might change some of the calls and the tendencies we have done in the past; I will tell you that,” Rebrovich said. “There are guys across our front who play multiple positions. That’s what we like about them. When we get out there, it could be personnel-based – meaning whatever offenses the opponent starts out in.
“That’s the thing we do we try to find guys who have that versatility.”
The Jacksonville Jaguars insist they will maintain their 4-3 look with some changes, but the more I look at this roster and see more size and speed, the idea of changing to 3-4 sub-packages doesn’t escape my thought process. With K’Lavon Chaisson from LSU on the outside, and with Josh Allen’s talent, there could be a lot of movement to force offenses to make changes while on the field.
This is where Rebrovich and the defensive coaches will shine. But the process will take time to develop. The Jaguars will count on veterans Abry Jones, Taven Bryan, and Dawuane Smoot to continue to lead the charge. The front office brought in Rodney Gunter, Cassius Marsh, and Aaron Lynch to help on the outside and Al Woods to be a run-stuffing tackle. DaVon Hamilton of Ohio State was drafted in the third round in April to shore up the middle as well.
Rebrovich said the players are well aware of the things that need to improve this coming season and how last year’s performance is something the team wants to make sure won’t happen again. If it were to continue, it could be another long season here in Jacksonville.
“Our players aren’t stupid,” he said. “You don’t need to keep banging a stick on a table and saying ‘Boom, boom, boom.’ They know what they’re going to need to do and we’re going to have to continue to grow and work on our run defense. They’re eager. They hear it. They listen.
“They hear the questions. They understand what they have to do.”