Disrespect in defensive ranking will fuel Jaguars OLB Josh Allen in 2024

• The Jaguars have a talented defensive core but Sports Illustrated thinks they are among the worst in the league.
Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Josh Allen (41) at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida Sunday Night, December 17, 2023. The Jaguars trailed 10 to 0 at the half and lost 23 to 7.
Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Josh Allen (41) at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida Sunday Night, December 17, 2023. The Jaguars trailed 10 to 0 at the half and lost 23 to 7. / Bob Self/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY

The Jacksonville Jaguars revamped the defense in the offseason. If all the pieces fall in place, they could be among the best in the league. However, Gilberto Manzano of Sports Illustrated isn't particularly impressed. In fact, he thinks that the Jacksonville defensive triplets are nothing to write home about.

Manzano recently ranked every team's defensive triplets, meaning their top 3 players on that side of the ball. For the Jags, he picked pass rusher Josh Allen, linebacker Foyesade Oluokun, and safety Andre Cisco. Manzano placed the Jags at No. 27, noting that Allen and Oluokun are studs, but the secondary is missing a stud.

"Triplets: Josh Allen, Foyesade Oluokun, Andre Cisco

The Jaguars need a star playmaker in the secondary to move up the rankings, but they’ve gotten steady play from Cisco, who recorded 62 total tackles and four interceptions last year. There’s no question who the star players are at pass rusher and inside linebacker. Oluokun has racked up at least 173 total tackles in each of the past three seasons, and Allen is coming off a career year with 17.5 sacks. "

Cisco has gotten the spotlight this offseason. He's been dubbed either a breakout candidate or one of the most underrated safeties in the league. Either way, he's no slouch. A third-round pick in the 2024 draft, the former Syracuse Orangeman has registered seven interceptions and 15 passes defensed the past two years. He's expected to take his game to the next level under defensive backs coach Kris Richard.

Oluokun, for his part, was a force last year, logging 173 tackles, one interception, and one forced fumble. On top of that, he's turned into one of the team's most respected leaders on and off the field. A sixth-round pick by the Atlanta Falcons in 2018, the Yale product was solid early in his career but it wasn't until he signed with the Jags in 2022 that he truly hit his stride.

Then, there's Allen, the Jaguars' best defensive player and one of the top pass rushers in the league. His 17.5 sacks in 2023 set a new team record, and he just signed a top-market contract that will ensure he stays in Duval for years to come.

But as good as Cisco, Oluokun, and Allen have been, Manzano didn't think they were good enough to rank them ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 26 (Cam Taylor-Britt, Logan, Wilson, and Trey Hendrickson), or the Indianapolis Colts (DeForest Buckner, Zaire Franklin, Kenny Moore II) at No. 25. This begs the question, did the Jaguars deserve such a low spot? A bit.

The Jaguars defensive triplets kind of deserve a low spot in the ranking

There's no denying the Jaguars have a stout defensive core, one that should reach new heights under Ryan Nielsen. However, it's easy to understand why they got such a low spot in Sports Illustrated ranking if you take a look at 2023.

Foyesade Oluokun, Josh Allen, and Andre Cisco were as good as they come, but the defense underachieved for the most part. Whether they missed tackles or blew assignments, they simply didn't play up to their talent. By the end of the season, there was basically no communication between position groups. Players and coaches were seemingly going through the motions, which is why they ended 17th in points allowed.

That kind of performance won't get you a high spot in any defensive ranking. And while the Jaguars triplets delivered in 2023, they were going to be dragged down by the rest of the unit. Working in their favor is the arrival of Nielsen, who will get the most out of them. Last year, the Atlanta Falcons experienced a surge, and Jacksonville should expect a similar improvement in 2024.

In the end, though, it will be up to the Jacksonville Jaguars to prove that they deserve a higher spot in the ranking. They'll have to wait until the season begins, but they should feel good about their chances with players such as Allen, Cisco, and Oluokun in the fold.

More Jaguars analysis here: