Devin Lloyd should benefit greatly from Jaguars defensive switch

• Jaguars LB Devin Lloyd should thrive under Ryan Nielsen in 2024.
Dec 17, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA;  Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Devin Lloyd (33) takes
Dec 17, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Devin Lloyd (33) takes / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive back Antonio Johnson was recently dubbed a breakout candidate for the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, he isn't their only player poised to make a huge leap in 2024. Third-year linebacker Devin Lloyd has steadily gotten better and should benefit from the Jags' change of defensive scheme.

Zoltán Buday of Pro Football Focus recently named Lloyd Jacksonville's most underrated player, citing his improvement and his performance against the run.

"Although Lloyd was a first-round pick, he was benched during his rookie season and saw his playing time reduced. However, he more than bounced back in 2023, proving why Jacksonville picked him so early two years ago. His 966 snaps ranked 23rd among linebackers, while his elite 90.3 run-defense grade ranked fourth at the position."

A first-round pick in 2022, Lloyd got off to a strong start to his rookie season but eventually ran into a rookie wall. He was phased in favor of fellow linebacker Chad Muma and only returned to the lineup when Muma got hurt. But despite finishing the season in a funk, the coaching staff's confidence in him didn't waver.

Lloyd began the 2023 in the starting lineup. He didn't make as many splash plays as he did the year prior but he was more consistent. One area in which the former Utah Ute improved was wrapping up tackles. After missing 14.7 percent of his attempts as a rookie, he had an 11.1 percent missed rate last season. His PFF coverage grade was also better, going from 35.2 to 67.8.

Following his rookie season, Lloyd said that he went through an adjustment period as a rookie, having to learn a new defense. With a much better grasp of the system, he was able to have more consistency last year. The California native will once again need to learn a new scheme in 2023 but it will be one that will make use of his strengths, so he should have no trouble getting acclimated quickly.

The Jaguars should expect a big jump in production from Devin Lloyd

The Jaguars relieved Mike Caldwell of defensive coordinator duties after 2023. To replace him, they brought in Ryan Nielsen. One big difference between him and his predecessor is that Nielsen puts heavy emphasis on fundamentals and technique. On top of that, he'll be making the switch to a 4-3 defense. Devin Lloyd should be among the players who benefit the most.

As Bucky Brooks pointed out, Lloyd played a more reactive role under Caldwell. With Nielsen in the fold, he'll play closer to the line of scrimmage and will be bringing the heat on the edges more frequently.

Lloyd will once again be asked to drop in coverage next season. That's an area where he needs to work on, but it wouldn't be shocking to see him blitz the quarterback often. In his last three seasons at Utah, he logged 15.5 sacks. Nielsen may want to look at his college take and use him in a similar way.

The truth is that Lloyd isn't necessarily underrated, but he still has room for improvement. With Ryan Nielsen at the helm, he could have a career season in 2024.

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