The Jacksonville Jaguars could be in the market for a pass rush. But whether they acquire outside help or not, they're close to getting defensive end DaVon Hamilton back. On Thursday, they open the 21-day window for him to return.
Hamilton suffered a non-football back injury in August and started the regular season on Injured Reserve. He didn't make the trip to London but the Jags must feel comfortable about his progress if they think he's healthy enough to practice.
Now, Hamilton will resume practice but that doesn't mean he'll play in Weeks 6 or 7. Jacksonville most likely wants him to get acclimated before he returns to the team. The fact that the defensive front has fared well without him allows the team to ease him into action.
Hamilton has become the best player the Jaguars drafted in 2020. Former first-round pick K'Lavon Chaisson is not more than a role player while cornerback C.J. Henderson hasn't been with the team for more than two years. Wide receiver Laviska Shenault was traded after two seasons and has failed to establish himself as a playmaker for the Carolina Panther.
The team's brass recognized Hamilton's impact and gave him a three-year deal worth $34 million in the offseason. The former Ohio State Buckeye consistently turned heads in training camp and was expected to have a breakout year in 2023 before he got hurt. Now, he'll have a chance to join the team and pick up where he left off last year.
The Jaguars are a better team with DaVon Hamilton in the lineup
DaVon Hamilton is arguably the Jaguars' best defensive lineman. Without him, they rank fifth in the league in rushing yards allowed and 10th in rushing touchdowns allowed. His return should bolster the run defense but he will also give the pass rush a boost.
In the offseason, Hamilton talked about diversifying his game and wanting to be more than a run stuffer. Now, he'll get a chance to prove he's a well-rounded player. Defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell, for his part, says he's thrilled to see Hamilton back at practice and "to be almost at full strength as a defense," via John Shipley of Sports Illustrated.
Add the potential return of defensive end Dawuane Smoot in Week 6, and the Jaguars will indeed be close to full strength. The defense has done a good job of keeping opponents at bay this season. Even when Jacksonville lost two games, the defense gave them a chance to win. Once Smoot and Hamilton are back in the mix, they're going to be among the best units in the NFL.
But even with Hamilton and Smoot in the fold, the Jaguars should look for ways to upgrade their pass rush before the trade deadline if they're serious about making a postseason run. You could make the case that it's a bit too early to talk about playoff seeding and division standings but the truth is that they need they to put in the work in the upcoming weeks if they want to be playing meaningful football in January. Bolstering the pass rush would help the case.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are currently riding a two-game streak. While they won't likely get Hamilton back in the upcoming days, his eventual return will ensure they're well-positioned to make noise in 2023.