Can he Jacksonville Jaguars interior defensive line get the job done in 2020 after a season last year where teams ran right thought the front four?
It’s one of the more interesting position battles to watch as the Jacksonville Jaguars prepare for training camp this summer. How will the interior defensive line break down as the offseason was spent trying to repair the failed run defense in 2019?
Looking at a bigger picture, the Jaguars front office added plenty of bodies to the mix this offseason while releasing Marcell Dareus for financial reasons. Just so everyone knows, Dareus is still a free agent. The Jaguars right now have more than $10.1M left in cap space. That includes the money allocated for defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who has yet to sign his franchise tag tender of $17.8M.
Should the team trade Ngakoue, it frees up more space. If the Jaguars wanted to make a run at Dareus at a lesser dollar figure, it could become a storyline to follow. This is purely speculation.
But for now, the interior line is a mixed bag of returning players – Abry Jones and Taven Bryan – along with free-agent signee Al Woods from Seattle and 2020 third-round draft pick DaVon Hamilton. There are other puzzle pieces that fit in the equation – with Rodney Gunter, Dontavius Russell, Doug Costin, and Brian Price factoring into the equation.
If more is better than this is a unit that should be improved based on sheer numbers. But in 2019, the run defense was cracked and could not be fixed by the end of the season. The loss of Dareus was a big deal, but the Jaguars’ coaching staff did not have him around enough to make an impact. And now, with Woods and Hamilton expected to be big-time additions, there is some light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
The Jacksonville Jaguars defense may look a little different than the 4-3 scheme that has been used since Todd Wash took over as defensive coordinator. With more speed rushers and players who were signed or drafted this offseason who can play multiple positions, it may change the look of ho plays over the center.
This also means the Jaguars pass rush may allow for more pressure up the middle.
“Many Jaguars offseason additions must fulfill expectations, but no position may be more important than this one on that front. The inability to stop the run defined the 2019 season, with the Jaguars allowing 200 or more yards rushing four times during a five-game losing streak to start the second half of the season,” John Oehser of Jaguars.com wrote.
“Woods and Gunter were signed to bolster an interior that wore down too often as the season continued, and their signings – along with drafting Hamilton – represent a major overhaul. Hamilton should be the most significant addition of that group in the long haul, but the team needs Gunter and Woods to immediately give them the stoutness inside it lacked once a core-muscle injury ended Dareus’ season in October.”
The defense must commit to stopping the run on the first two downs and set up long passing situations to get off the field in a hurry. There are enough weapons on offense that should give this defense more of a breather in 2020.
If the Jacksonville Jaguars are going to improve inside, there must be more penetration up the middle as well. Too often last season, the middle of the interior line was stuffed at the point of attack or was pushed back off the ball. The opposing running game was able to get to the second level before the linebackers and secondary had time to react.
The man on the spot is Bryan, who in his third season must make an impact early as the front four needs someone to step forward and lead by example. The Jacksonville Jaguars coaching staff saw ore promise out of Bryan last season. Now they need to see a continuation of production.