The Jacksonville Jaguars dismissed defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell one day after losing to the Tennessee Titans in the 2023 season finale because they thought changes were necessary. After a thorough search that lasted two weeks, the Jags found their guy in Ryan Nielsen, who held the same position for the Atlanta Falcons last year.
Although the Falcons didn't have one of the best defenses in the league, they ranked in the top 10 in several categories, including passing yards allowed, third-round success, pass defense, and yards per play allowed. While it may be a bit too early to draw any meaningful conclusions, it's fair to say that the Jaguars nailed the hire.
Head coach Doug Pederson, for one, is excited about Nielsen's arrival, noting that the units he's coached have been "fundamentally sound in both their physicality and concepts. There's a chance the Jaguars' defense will go through an adjustment period early on, but they should be better off in the long run. And once these four players get acclimated to the new system, they will thrive under Nielsen.
4. DaVon Hamilton, defensive end
One of the biggest questions surrounding Ryan Nielsen's arrival is whether he'll switch to a 4-3 defense. When he landed in Atlanta, he said that he wasn't concerned with labels but rather stopping people. In Jacksonville, Nielsen will put an emphasis on the defensive line, his area of expertise, which should benefit Davon Hamilton.
A third-round pick in 2020, Hamilton played defensive tackle early in his first two seasons but made the switch to 3-4 defensive end last year. The Jaguars expected big things from him after seeing him get progressively better, so they gave him a three-year deal worth $34 million before the draft.
Throughout training camp, Hamilton was one of the most dominant players and seemed poised to have a breakout campaign. Unfortunately, a non-football back injury forced him to miss several games early in the season. When he came back, he wasn't still 100 percent physically or mentally, so he was made inactive a couple times.
With enough time to recover, Hamilton should get back to his usual self, and Nielsen will find a way to get the most out of him. Eight-time Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan, who played for Nielsen from 2017-2022, can attest to that.