The Jacksonville Jaguars asked for permission to interview Ejiro Evero and Ryan Nielsen for their defensive coordinator opening following the dismissal of Mike Caldwell Monday. However, both requests were blocked. While Evero and Nielsen are qualified candidates, the Jags aren't waiting for either one to become available, having already moved on to the next coaches on their wish list.
Insider Josina Anderson of CBS Sports reported Friday night that Jacksonville is slated to host Ravens pass game coordinator/secondary coach Chris Hewitt for an interview/dinner Saturday.
Jeff Zebric of The Athletic first broke the news that the Jags were zeroing in on Hewitt. However, he's not the only candidate they've considered for their opening at defensive coordinator. Also on Friday, they put in a request for an interview with New York Jets defensive assistant Marquand Manuel, per Jordan Schultz of Bleacher Report. But that wasn't the end of it.
The Jags also requested interviews with Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Shane Bowen for the same role and passing game coordinator/secondary coach Chris Harris, via Turron Davenport of ESPN. Since it would be a lateral move for Bowen, the Titans have the right to decline the request. Although they moved on from head coach Mike Vrabel, most of his staff, including Bowen, remains under contract.
On the other hand, the Jags should have no trouble scheduling an interview with Harris, who would get a promotion in Jacksonville. A former NFL player, Harris suited up for several teams, including the Jags in 2012. Once he hung up the cleats, he got his coaching career started with the Chicago Bears as a quality control coach in 2013. He then joined the Chargers in 2016 as an assistant defensive back coach.
A sixth-round pick in the 2005 draft, Harris was hired as the Washington Commanders defensive back coach from 2020-2022. He then became became the Titans' passing game coordinator. Meanwhile, Shane Bowen has been their defensive coordinator since 2021. Before that, he spent three seasons as their linebackers coach.
Tennessee ranked sixth in points allowed in his first season at the helm, and 14th and 16th in 2022, and 2023, respectively. While there's a dip in production, you could make the case that Bowen got the most out of the talent he had at hand, with the Titans failing to restock the defense in recent years.
Hewitt, for his part, played three seasons for the New Orleans Saints in the late 1900s before joining the Notre Dame staff in 2003. He eventually made the leap to the NFL as a defensive backs coach for the Baltimore Ravens in 2012. He then became their pass game coordinator in 2020. Secondary coach was added to his responsibilities two years later.
The Jaguars have options to fill their DC vacancy after dismissing Mike Caldwell
Players such as Kyle Hamilton and Marlon Humphrey have routinely shined under Chris Hewitt's tutelage, so the Jaguars' interest in his is worth keeping an eye on. In Jacksonville, he would work with Andre Cisco, Darious Williams Tyson Campbell, and 2023 fifth-round pick Antonio Johnson. The same is true for Marquand Manuel, who's coached the likes of D.J. Reed, Sauce Gardner, and Michael Carter II in New York.
Based on Josina Anderson's scoop though, maybe Hewitt is the early front-runner for the Jaguars' defensive coordinator vacancy. That said, this is a fluid situation and things can happen in the blink of an eye. If the team's brass are wooed by Hewitt, they may not waste any time locking him up. But if they aren't convinced, nothing is stopping them from going through the rest of their wish list.
Whether they bring in someone with experience or a first-year coordinator, the Jaguars must hire someone who can get the most out of their current personnel. Mike Caldwell wasn't always able to do so, especially in the second half of the 2023 season, when missed tackles and blown coverage made it difficult to stop opposing teams from reaching the end zone.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are moving quickly after a somewhat quiet start to the search. Heck, head coach Doug Pederson said one day after the season ended that he wasn't planning on making changes to his staff. Hours later, he gave Mike Caldwell his walking papers. At this pace, they will have a new defensive coordinator in place next week.