The Jacksonville Jaguars made several splash signings in free agency and most of them will have a big impact right off the bat. One player that isn’t getting nearly as much attention is defensive end Arden Key, who could turn out to be their most underrated acquisition. Head coach Doug Pederson recently praised Key, noting that he brings plenty of value on third downs, as his presence will help his teammates stay fresh. Meanwhile, the edge defender sees himself as a piece of the puzzle and believes the group has the potential to be special, via the team’s official website.
"“We’ve got guys who can rush here. I’m here to get that going. There are a lot of o guys who can pass rush their [expletive] of. I’m here to add a piece to that. Once we get the chemistry going and jell together, this pass rush group can be special”."
A third-round pick by the Las Vegas Raiders in the 2018 NFL Draft, Key had an uneventful rookie campaign, making 10 starts but logging just one sack, 30 total tackles, and four tackles for a loss. His lack of impact got him bumped down the depth chart in 2019. The former LSU Tiger spent most of the next two seasons as a role player and was gone by 2021. He finished his three-year stint with the Silver and Black with 10 starts, three sacks, 49 total tackles, eight tackles, and no big plays.
Looking for a fresh start, Key went on to sign with the San Francisco 49ers last offseason, which was a great career move in retrospect. During his lone year in the Bay Area, he played all 17 games and registered 6.5 sacks, 30 total tackles, and five tackles for a loss as a part of the team’s defensive line rotation.
Arden Key will be an important piece in the Jaguars D-Line rotation
You can only have so many players on the football field at any given time and the Jaguars are stacked at outside linebacker, which bodes well for Josh Allen, and Travon Walker. Both Dawuane Smoot, Key, and even K’Lavon Chaisson can take their place in the lineup at any given time to let them catch their breath. This will in turn improve the efficiency of the group.
Last season, Allen and Smoot were basically the team’s only pass rushers and the increased amount of playing time might have had a negative impact on their productivity. That won’t longer be an issue due to the arrival of Key and Walker this past offseason. Moreover, there will be plenty of collective experience in this group. Walker notwithstanding, this is a group of veteran pass rushers that has potential and Key says he’s trying to put his part.
"They never said that my job was to get the pass rush group going, but I’m taking that on my shoulders… It’s going to be a challenge for us to grow as a defensive line pass-rush wise and build that camaraderie. We’ve got to get those extra reps and learn how to pass rush together and have that chemistry together."
The Jaguars’ front seven looks in good shape ahead of training camp, and if Key plays the way he did for the 49ers last year, their ability to pressure the quarterback will increase considerably in 2022.