When I look back on the 2017 season, I feel proud that I got to enjoy watching a defense so dominant that it was compared to the 85 Bears and 2000 Ravens. I feel excitement remembering what it felt like to see AJ Bouye pick off a ball meant for Travis Benjamin in overtime against the Los Angeles Chargers. I feel a sense of "what could have been" if the AFC championship game against the New England Patriots had ended differently (MJWD). And I feel a sense of disappointment, that the Jaguars weren't able to reproduce those same emotions in 2018. However, when I look ahead to 2019, I get excited once again because I'm confident that the Jaguars' defense will be just as dominant in 2019 as they were in 2017, and here are 5 reasons why.
In 2017 the Jaguars starting defensive ends were Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue. The projected starters for 2019? You guessed it, Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue. Barring a catastrophe, and the Jaguars failing to work out a contract for Ngakoue, the bookends of the Jaguars defensive line should be back, and there's no real reason to think that they'll show any sign of slowing down. Combining for 46.5 sacks since they began playing together in 2017, the duo should be as dominant as ever in 2019.
Secondary. Featuring two All-Pro caliber corners, Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye, the Jaguars make their opponents think twice about passing the ball. Bouye, another member of the 2017 free agent class, has racked up seven interceptions, 26 passes defended, and 99 tackles since joining the team. Ramsey speaks for himself. Despite Campbell being the mayor of Sacksonville, Ramsey is a household name amongst NFL fans. Defending the slot the Jaguars will feature D.J Hayden, who was drafted 12th overall in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. In 2018, Hayden exceeded expectations in his first year with the team, despite dealing with nagging injuries. At safety the I expect the Jaguars to start Ronnie Harrison (SS) and Jarrod Wilson (FS), both of whom I like to come in and replace Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson who are now departed.
Looking at the projected starters on the Jaguars' defense, there's a lot to like. But if you continue down the roster, you'll continue to be impressed. Take 7th overall pick Josh Allen for example. On just about any team in the NFL, he would be starting immediately. Not on the Jaguars. Unless Ngakoue doesn't play, Allen will have the luxury of not having to play every down. He'll be hungry, he'll want to show off what he can do, he can learn from veterans like Campbell, and if DC Todd Wash lets him, he can play multiple positions. 2018 First round pick, Taven Bryan, is also seen as a depth guy on the Jaguars roster. That's a lot of talent for the guys that aren't asked to play every down and can come in fresh when their number gets called.
Calais Campbell (32), Najee Goode (30), and Cody Davis (30) are the only players on the Jaguars defense that are 30 years of age or older. Having a young defense will hopefully help the Jaguars avoid injuries and play fast in the upcoming 2019 season. It's worth mentioning that the core of the defense — Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, and Yannick Ngakoue — are all 23 & 24 years old and still playing on their rookie contracts.
Last but not least, is a category that I think the Jaguars have actually improved in since the 2017 season. After trading for Marcell Dareus in 2017, and restructuring his contract to help the salary cap, and Abry Jones being promoted to starter with the departure of Malik Jackson, I like the Jaguars run defense a lot heading into 2019. I also like third-round pick Quincy Williams to help with the run defense after registering 111 tackles his senior year at Murray State. Williams showed a nose for the ball and arrives with bad intentions when he gets to it.
Looking at the defense top to bottom, you'd be hard pressed to find a real weakness. And it's not as if this defense wasn't among the league's best in 2018, which was considered a down year for the group. Combine that with an improved offense that should allow the defense to play with a lead, and you've got a formula for success.
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