With the big money portion of free agency in the rearview, the Jaguars 2021 roster has begun to take shape. There are certainly some strong areas, looking at cornerback, wide receiver, off-ball linebacker, and the interior of both the offensive and defensive line. But with a team coming off a 1-15 record, there are bound to be holes. The Jaguars certainly need help at tight end, could probably use another quality safety, and need to see major improvement from their offensive tackles.
One area I'm highly concerned with the current roster? The lack of edge rush. Urban Meyer has repeatedly spoken about the need for elite play from his defensive front, and the way it's currently built, the Jaguars do not have enough on the edge.
The Jaguars have only three players on their roster that can earnestly be described as edge rushers: Josh Allen, K'Lavon Chaisson, and Dawuane Smoot. Sure, they have other guys listed as defensive ends, but Roy Robertson-Harris, Jihad Ward, and Adam Gotsis are more in the mold of the big, physical 3-4 defensive end, while Lerentee McCray is a core special teamer.
Are Josh Allen, K'Lavon Chaisson, and Dawaune Smoot enough when it comes to creating pressure off the edge?
They could be, but you're asking Josh Allen to make the leap from a good player to a great one in year three, K'Lavon Chaisson to develop into a consistent pressure creator (which he did show glimpses of down the stretch in 2020) in year two, and Dawuane Smoot to suddenly become an efficient pass rusher at age 26. It's a long shot to think all of those developments will occur in 2021.
You could thow Joe Giles-Harris' name in the ring too, but he was only an experimental pass rusher for a few games down the stretch in 2020. Not exactly what you want to rely on heading into 2021.
Will improved cornerback play and a stronger defensive interior aid Allen, Chaisson, and Smoot? Probably. But the room still feels lacking. Ideally, Smoot would be your fourth edge rusher in a rotation, while Chaisson would be third as he continues his development. That leaves the Jaguars needing an impact pass rusher to line up on the edge.
Where can they find one?
The Jaguars could and likely should sign a veteran. Why? Because you want to address all your needs before the draft, allowing you to select high-quality talent without being pigeonholed or pressured into taking a certain position. Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying the Jaguars should ignore edge rushers in the draft, I just don't want GM Trent Baalke and HC Urban Meyer to feel like they have to grab position X at a specific spot.
Justin Houston would be a strong fit as a pass-rush specialist. He's nearly 33, but a low-risk one or two-year deal would make sense for a pass rusher that has racked up 19 sacks over the last two seasons for division rival Indianapolis.
Outside of that, the cupboard is fairly bare on the open market. Ryan Kerrigan could make sense for a year or two. His play has fallen off, but he's still managed 5.5 sacks in each of the last two seasons.
Sure, Jadeveon Clowney is out there, but he's unlikely to sign until much closer to the start of the regular season, and he's probably looking for more than what the Jaguars will want to spend on a pass rush specialist. He's a much stronger run defender than he is a pass rusher anyways.
As I said earlier, I don't want the Jaguars to go into the draft feeling that they need to land an edge rusher at a specific spot. But make no mistake, I do like a lot of the edge rushers in this draft class, and I think the Jaguars could find the right value at some point on the first two days of the draft.
At pick 25, Azeez Ojulari and Jaelan Phillips make a ton of sense. Ojulari is still young, but his athletic traits and production suggest he'll be able to develop quickly, and he's a quality run defender to boot. Jaelan Phillips has all the qualities of a top-five pick, but he'll need to be cleared from a medical standpoint.
At 33 and 45, there are several potential fits. Jayson Oweh is raw, but has shown the ability to do everything on the field and is an athletic unicorn. Ronnie Perkins shows some stiffness but has a ton of speed and power and plays the run well. Joseph Ossai is a maximum effort guy and projects to be a quality 3-4 edge rusher.
Later on, Quincy Roche, Gregory Rousseau, Joe Tryon, Jonathon Cooper, Carlos Basham, and Janarius Robinson are all in my top 100 prospects.
If I were running the show, we'd be adding a veteran pass rusher and drafting one or two at some point in the draft. It's a premium position, and in a Joe Cullen defense, you are going to want waves of players that can wreak havoc.
Let's face it — with the current group of edge rushers, it doesn't look like the return of Sacksonville is imminent.
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