In a few weeks the wait will be over. The 2021 NFL Draft will be here, and the Jacksonville Jaguars will open the spectacle for the first time in franchise history.
After the worst season in franchise history and 15 straight defeats, the Jaguars want to cause a sensation to get one of the NFL’s stagnant franchises back on track. The Jaguars are armed with 10 draft picks to help drive this turnaround, including the No. 1 pick.
But where do the jaguars need to improve? Who needs to be replaced? To answer these questions and more, let’s take a look at what each Jaguar positional group looked like in the last month leading up to draft. Today we’re looking at what is arguably the most important position in defense: Edge Defender.
Pre-Draft Jaguar Position Primer: QB room on the left, waiting for Trevor Lawrence
Pre-Draft Jaguar Position Primer: The RB unit has its leader, but speed is required
Pre-Draft Jaguar Position Primer: TE room set to take shape in 2021
Pre-Draft Jaguar Position Primer: OT has its starters for 2021, but what about beyond?
Pre-Draft Jaguar Position Primer: OG Position returns multiple players, but questions remain
Pre-Draft Jaguar Position Primer: Brandon Linder Anchors Center, But What About The Future?
Pre-Draft Jaguar Position Primer: How Will Jacksonville Approach DL Reconstruction?
On the list: Josh Allen, K’Lavon Chaisson, Jihad Ward, Lerentee McCray, Aaron Patrick
The Jaguars’ full-back depth map now looks a bit different than it did at the start of the 2020 season, although the top two defenders (Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson) are still in place. Even so, none of the other three edge defenders on the roster were on the active Jacksonville roster last season. Aaron Patrick was added to the team’s practice group late in the season, Lerentee McCray ruled out before the season started due to COVID-19 concerns, and Jihad Ward played under Jaguar’s defensive coordinator Joe Cullen in Baltimore.
Allen is the clear cream of the crop when it comes to Jacksonville’s defenders. Allen was number 7 in the 2019 NFL Draft and broke the Jaguars’ rookie sack record with a rookie of 10.5. He was also the first Jaguars rookie to ever do a Pro Bowl. Allen sustained injuries last season but only played eight games and picked up 2.5 sacks, a far cry from his production as a rookie. Now Allen must prove that changing the Jaguar scheme can really help him achieve his potential – something that the last scheme prevented him from doing.
“I yelled at my wife when we found out [the Jaguars were switching to a 3-4]”Allen said to ESPN’s Michael DiRocco earlier this month.” That’s why I’m here [in the NFL] and then transitioning to the defensive end of my first and sophomore year was a transition, but it was a transition that I wanted to make and that I had to make and that I could make at the time. ”
Chaisson, number 20 in last year’s draft, had similar problems with productions in 2020. Chaisson played the entire season, but ended his rookie year with 19 tackles, a sack, three tackles against loss, and nine quarterback hits. – with the lonely sack in week 2. With that said, Chaisson’s play improved dramatically on the track as he became more comfortable and developed his countermovements. Like everyone, he was miscast as a 4-3 defensive end and fits more naturally to the sideline defender.
The 26-year-old Ward is a previous selection from the 2016 second round who has moved from team to team throughout her career before winning as a rotary defender at Cullen and the Ravens in 2019. Ward had the best season of his career in 2020, racking up three sacks, four tackles on loss and eight quarterback hits while playing only 26% of the team’s defensive snaps.
McCray and Patrick are two players who are holdovers from the roster that Urban Meyer and Trent Baalke inherited. It’s noteworthy that McCray is still on the roster after leaving last season – the other two defenders who dropped out of the Jaguars’ roster last year (Al Woods and Rashaan Melvin) were left by the Jaguars at the start of the Release Released Agency.
Off-Season Additions: Jihad Ward
The Jaguars have not freed up notable defenders and have chosen to walk the path of worth and familiarity with Jihad Ward rather than spending on Carl Lawson, Matt Judon, Trey Hendrickson, and others. Ward has never been a top pass rusher at the NFL level and he’s probably better off than the fourth man in a rotation, but he’s an established leader who has produced in the program in the past. Plus, it’s clear the Jaguars didn’t just sign him to get after the quarterback. He was a signature with the idea of introducing a new culture – and it’s not hard to see why.
“I want to be part of that change. A lot of people, when they are dealing with a free hand, want to deal with the winning teams getting a Super Bowl ring and all that stuff. But some people don’t know when they’re going to Teams, some people change, and others do it the easy way. I want to challenge myself, “Ward said at his launch press conference after the free agency.
“I want to be part of this organization and I want to see the moment. Everyone wants to believe that Jacksonville will be an easy win. No, if you go up against Jacksonville you’d better think twice. Watch your mouth when you come on.” us. So you have to bring it to the table. I really don’t talk much and all that stuff. You will see. ”
Off-Season Subtractions: Aaron Lynch
The only edge defender to have received consistent snaps last season that are not currently on the roster is Aaron Lynch. Lynch was an interesting case last year because he signed with the Jaguars, retired in August before the start of the year, and didn’t retire in October. Lynch was decent as a backup defensive ending for the Jaguars, amassing a sack and three quarterback hits in limited snaps.
Biggest question before design: will the jaguars use an early round selection to bolster the depth map along the edge?
We won’t go into the details again, but we’ve explained here why the Jaguars have an urgent need for the fringe position despite having two athletic and talented former first round players at the position.
Essentially, the ravens relied on a deep rotation along the ridge to keep their defenses fresh and aggressive. In contrast, the jaguars have the opposite of a deep rotation at the current position. You’re an injury away from the entire depth map that floods, and we saw with Allen’s injury last year how delicate this type of top-heavy edge group can be.
So the biggest question for this year’s fringe group is whether the Jaguars will use one of their top 65 picks to expand the space. The Jaguars can’t step into 2021 with their current group of pass rushers and feel like they have done enough, but neither do they have the depth along the edge to function in base defense even if injuries do occur .
If the Jaguars add an edge defender, he could likely play between 45 and 55% of the team’s snaps in a rotation with Allen and Chaisson, while Ward takes on his more natural role as the No. 4 player in the rotation. There are many ways to play Allen, Chaisson, and a third edge defender on the field at the same time.
Designs that fit: Azeez Olujari, Joseph Ossai, Jaelan Philips, Carlos Basham, Ronnie Perkins, Shaka Toney, Quincy Roche
My high profile edge defender, Michigan Defensive End Kwity Paye, is not included here because I think a true 4-3 defense would suit him a lot better. That said, every other player on this list can either work with their hands in the dirt or while standing, which is key to the Jaguars’ new look.
Azeez Olujari is not of a prototypical size and would likely raise some concerns as he would be the second minor pass rusher drafted in so many years, but he is a top athlete who plays the run harder than most of the other edge defenders in the this year’s design.
Jaelan Phillips’ projected design area is impossible to project. He’s one of the top defenders in the class based solely on the 2020 film, but he’s had concussions and other serious injuries throughout his college career that could force teams to ask legitimate questions.
Carlos Basham is a tough valuation at times, but he is a hybrid type of edge player who can win both outside and inside. Add his leadership skills and top athleticism for his size and he just seems like a Jaguars / Ravens pass rusher.