Jaguars set to hire Ryan Nielsen as their new defensive coordinator

• The Jaguars have seemingly concluded their search for a defensive coordinator. They'll reportedly hire Ryan Nielsen to fill their vacancy.

Nov 17, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen during the second
Nov 17, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen during the second / Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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Two weeks after dismissing defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell, the Jacksonville Jaguars have found his replacement. They're set to hire Ryan Nielsen, per Adam Schefter of ESPN. Pat McAfee also broke the news during his show.

Nielsen was the Atlanta Falcons' defensive coordinator in 2023. He began his coaching career at USC in 2002. He then spent time at Ole Miss, Central Connecticut State, and other schools before making the leap to the NFL in 2017. That year, he joined the New Orleans Saints as their defensive line coach. Assistant head coach was added to his responsibilities in 2021 and he became their co-defensive coordinator in 2022.

Even though Nielsen was one of the first names the Jags circled in their search for a defensive coordinator, the Falcons blocked them from meeting with him. Since he was still under contract and was interviewing for a lateral move, they had the right to deny the request for an interview. Eventually, they gave Jacksonville permission. And based on the news, it looks like things went well.

The Jags moved on from Mike Caldwell after an underwhelming end to 2023. Even though the defense had more enough talent to compete, they looked sloppy and unprepared in the second half of the season. Although Doug Pederson said one day after the loss to the Tennessee Titans that he would take time to make a decision on any potential changes to the staff, he dismissed Caldwell later the same day, noting that he felt change was necessary.

Aside from Caldwell, the Jaguars also moved on from most defensive coaches, along with running backs coach Bernie Parmalee and assistant offensive line coach Todd Washington. The only three defensive coaches that remained in place were defensive quality control coach Patrick Reilly, assistant defensive line coach Rory Segrest and outside linebackers coach Bill Shuey.

What's next for the Jacksonville Juguars and Ryan Nielsen?

Ryan Nielsen is taking over a group that ranked 17th in the league in points allowed and 22nd in yards allowed. A point of emphasis should be execution, something the Jaguars struggled with down the stretch last year. Eight-time Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan played for Nielsen for five years and had a rave review of his former coach, noting that he's "a top tier DL coach in terms of developing pass rush and emphasizing technique on run and gap integrity."

In Jacksonville, Nielsen will have lots of talent to work with. The Jaguars have bookend pass rushers in Travon Walker and Josh Allen, who combined for 27.5 sacks between the two last year. The Jaguars are also set at inside linebacker due to the presence of Foye Oluokun and Devin Lloyd. There won't be a shortage of pieces in the secondary either.

Tyson Campbell should bounce back in 2024 if he stays healthy. Opposite of him is Darious Williams who tallied four interceptions and 19 passes defensed last year. On the other hand, Andre Cisco has developed into a steady contributor while Antonio Johnson showed promise as a rookie. It's fair to say that if the Jaguars bolster their pass rush and fortify their interior defensive line, Nielsen will have a realistic shot to turn the defense into a top 10 unit.

By hiring Ryan Nielsen, the Jacksonville Jaguars have checked off an important box. They must now turn their attention to bolster the roster and ensure he's got enough playmakers to work with.

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