Jaguars defensive front earns low ranking despite recent additions

Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Travon Walker (44) participates in mini camp at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Travon Walker (44) participates in mini camp at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

The Jacksonville Jaguars have made several additions to their defensive front in the last two offseasons but the group still lacks star power. That’s one of the reasons they might have shown up near the cellar of a recent ranking.

Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus recently ranked every NFL team’s defensive line and the Jags popped up at No. 28th, just above the Atlanta Falcons (32), the Chicago Bears (31), the Houston Texans (30), and the Seattle Seahawks (29). Linsey included outside linebackers in 3-4 defenses as part of the evaluation since they’re tasked with pressuring the quarterback. Regarding Jacksonville, Linsey argues that they’ve invested plenty of resources in the edge defender position over the last four years but don’t have much to show for it. He goes on to say that it’s uncertain what kind of impact Travon Walker will have in his rookie campaign.

"Jacksonville has invested a lot of resources into the edge defender position with first-round picks spent on Josh Allen, K’Lavon Chaisson, and Travon Walker in the last four offseasons. However, Walker was drafted No. 1 overall for his rare, physical traits and not his track record of college production. It remains to be seen how much he can add as a rookie at a position where both production and athleticism matter when projecting to the NFL."

Similarly, Linsey isn’t high on defensive tackle Folorunso Fatukasi, who signed a three-year deal worth $30 million to join the Jags in free agency.

"The other big addition to a defensive front that ranked 30th in PFF grades in 2021 was Folorunso Fatukasi. The 318-pound defensive tackle was one of the position’s best-run defenders across the 2019 and 2020 seasons but took a step back with the Jets last year (57.3 PFF run-defense grade)."

The Jaguars have been built a stout defensive front in the last two years

By going all the way back to 2020, Linsey did the Jaguars no favors. Their roster has undergone many changes since then and many players that the previous regime acquired are no longer with the team. It’s true that former general manager David Caldwell left the cupboard bare when he traded Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell but that was nearly two years ago, and his successor, Trent Baalke has done a good job of replenishing the group.

Last offseason, the Jags signed defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris and re-signed Adam Gotsis. The latter turned out to be a key cog on the team’s defensive line rotation and was brought back once again earlier this year. Also, Baalke inked former San Francisco 49ers defensive end Arden Key, who can play different positions up front. And while Travon Walker has yet to play a down in the NFL, he’s not the only pass rusher defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell will have at his disposal in 2022.

Dawuane Smoot has logged a combined 11.5 sacks over the last two seasons and outside linebacker Josh Allen is poised to have a breakout season in 2022, after registering just 10 total sacks in the last years. Allen is currently mentoring Walker in his transition to edge defender, and their presence across each other in the Jaguars’ front seven should benefit them both. Last season, the Jags’ defense had a combined 32 sacks, and if all or most of their additions live up to expectations, they should easily rack up ten more in 2022.

The Jaguars’ offense is expected to make a huge leap this upcoming season but their defense could low-key be pretty good as well. For that reason, it wouldn’t be shocking to see their front seven move up a few spots as the year progresses.

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