The Jacksonville Jaguars have a well-rounded roster but they need to sort out a few positions groups before the 2023 NFL season begins. In particular, they must define how their pass rush rotation will look. This has led Ryan Fowler of Bleacher Report to name outside linebacker their biggset position battle ahead of the preseason finale against the Miami Dolphins.
Fowler took at each team's biggest position battles and picked outside linebacker for the Jags. More specifically, he thinks K'Lavon Chaisson has been unremarkable the last three years and adds that Yasir Abdullah will be competing for playing time.
"For Chaisson, his first three years in Jacksonville have left a bad taste in the mouth of all involved. An explosive 5-technique coming out of LSU, 49 pressures and three sacks in as many seasons just doesn't cut it.
A consistent rotation at pass-rusher is something all teams search for. With Jordan Smith and rookie Yasir Abdullah fighting for snaps as well, a "what have you done for me lately" approach should provide clarity to head coach Doug Pederson in who ultimately gets snaps on Sundays."
Josh Allen and Travon Walker will be the Jaguars' top pass rushers in 2023. Even though they combined for 10.5 sacks last year, they're both expected to take a leap next season. Allen, in particular, was highly productive in true pass sets but his pressures didn't always end in sacks, which is something that needs to change.
Similarly, Walker switched to outside linebacker full-time after hardly ever rushing the passer from a two-point stance. He spent his rookie season making the transition and the team's brass expects him to be fully acclimated and make an impact in Year 2.
The issue is that even if Allen and Walker meet expectations, they don't have a solid option behind them. As Fowler noted, Chaisson has been underwhelming and Jacksonville might need to thrust Abdullah into action before they would've liked. A fifth-round pick in this year's draft, Abdullah doesn't have the prototypical size to rush the quarterback in the NFL. While he has shown flashes in the preseason, he will probably experience growing pains during his rookie season, so expectations around him should be tempered.
On the other hand, Jordan Smith could be running out of time in Jacksonville. A fourth-round pick in 2021, the former UAB Blazer was a healthy scratch throughout most of his rookie campaign. He then tore his ACL last year and missed the 2022 season. So far, he hasn't done enough to make you think he'll turn the corner.
The Jaguars pass rush is currently a work in progress
The Jaguars kept most of their 2022 core together. One of the few key contributors they let walk in free agency was defensive end Arden Key. Although the former LSU Tiger played less than half the defensive snaps last, year, he was an important piece on their rotation, registering 4.5 sacks, 20 total pressures, and five tackles for a loss.
Moreover, Key's ability to line up at different spots on the defensive line allowed defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell to deploy him in different ways. This helped them find favorable matchups and his teammates make plays. So far, the Jaguars haven't found anyone that can fill the void he left.
Maybe this is the year the switch flips for K'Lavon Chaisson, as unlikely as that may be. Or maybe Abdullah has an immediate impact as a rookie. But until further notice, the Jaguars' pass rush rotation remains a question mark with the regular season inching closer.