Jacksonville Jaguars defense land in bottom half of Post-Draft Power Ranking
The Jacksonville Jaguars added important depth pieces to their defense in free agency and the 2023 NFL Draft. However, Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report doesn't think that wasn't nearly enough to give the Jags a high spot in his latest power ranking.
Knox recently ranked all 32 defenses in the NFL following this year's draft and Jacksonville landed at No. 22 despite the fact that they were 12th in points allowed last season. While Knox acknowledges that the Jaguars did a good job of keeping points off the board in 2022, he wonders if the defense can maintain its efficacy next season.
"The defense ranked 28th in passing yards allowed last season, and if there isn't significant growth from the returning cast, the Jags will walk a razor-thin line between having a close-to-average defense and a bad one. Jacksonville didn't do much of anything to upgrade its defense in the offseason, so a lot will depend on the continued development of players like Lloyd and 2022 first-overall pick Travon Walker."
Knox goes on to say that Travon Walker will need to make a huge leap in 2023, noting that an uptick in production would from the No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft "would go a long way towards improving a pass rush that generated only 35 sacks".
Unlike last year, the Jags didn't make a splash signing in free agency and instead focus on re-signing players slated to walk in free agency and adding depth pieces to the defensive front. Similarly, the team's brass used their early-round selections on offense and waited until Round 4 to make their first pick on defense, Tyler Lacy.
The Jacksonville Jaguars expect their defensive core to make strides in 2023
As former Jaguars tight end Clay Harbor recently pointed out, the Jaguars have the most returning players in the NFL. Specifically, all 11 starters on defense will tentatively be back. In fact, the only spot that may be up is the nickel position, which Tre Herndon will tentatively hold in 2023.
And that's the thing, the Jaguars expect their current group to improve, specifically Travon Walker and Devin Lloyd. They were both taken in the first round last year and they experienced growing pains in 2022. Outside linebacker Josh Allen is also entering a contract year and while he's done a good job of racking up pressures, Jacksonville needs him to have a breakout season.
Defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell should also improve in 2023. Last year marked the first time he held the position and he seemingly got a better grasp of the job as the season progressed. With a year of experience under his belt and better acquainted with his player's strengths and weaknesses, he should do a better job.
On the other hand, you could make the case that Jacksonville should have adopted a more aggressive approach in free agency and gone after defensive lineman Javon Hargrave. On the other hand, they gave long-term deals to defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris, safety Andrew Wingard and defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton, so they did spend money but they did it on their own player.
Moreover, Jacksonville could still make upgrades on defense in the upcoming months. Frank Clark, Melvin Ingram, and Yannick Ngakoue remain unsigned and if the price is right, the team's brass could pursue any of them to bolster the pass rush.
All things considered, the Jacksonville Jaguars got a fair spot in B/R's ranking. But if their strategy pays off and the defense gels, they should have no trouble moving into the top half in 2023.