The Jaguars are in great need of pass rushers who can come in and immediately help get pressure on the quarterback. Last year the Jaguars averaged just over 2 sacks per game and were, quite simply, terrible at getting pressure on the quarterback. But, not to fear, Dave Caldwell has mentioned several times that there will be new pass rushers in Duval in 2016. Since the season ended he has alluded to the Jaguars’ “mountain of cap space” and suggested that there will be an “influx of pass rushers”. The good news for the Jags is that this free agent/draft class is loaded with talented pass rushers.
Enter Olivier Vernon. While he does have a fancy first name, it certainly doesn't pop off the screen when you see it, like say Von Miller, but it based on his talent it should. Vernon has been a force to be reckoned with in Miami and is now set to be an unrestricted free agent. He has been in Miami since he was drafted in 2012, where he has racked up 29 sacks in four seasons. Even better, over the last three seasons he has not recorded less than 6.5 sacks. Vernon tallied 7.5 sacks in 2015 — not an eye popping number by any measure, but it still would have been better than anyone on the Jags — but, his true stripes are revealed when analyzing his numbers more deeply.
Vernon was able to pressure the quarterback 80 times in 2015, with 30 knockdowns. I don't think the Jaguars as a team had 80 quarterback pressures in 2015 (kidding, of course), but to say that Olivier Vernon would greatly help the Jags pass rush would be an understatement. Not to be forgotten in this mix is the fact that he ranked 3rd amongst edge defenders in 2015 according to Pro Football Focus with a grade of 92.5. In his impressive 2015 campaign not only did he do well in passing situations, but he excelled as a run defender, accounting for 61 tackles on the year.
Now to the issue of money. Vernon could very well end up as one of the highest paid edge defenders of the 2015 free agent class, and he should be. His former team, the Dolphins, is lacking cap space after signing Suh to a ridiculous deal in 2014 and will likely be out of play for the 25 year old Vernon. The Jaguars will have to throw a lot of money around to sign Vernon, but they have the cap space and the desire to get the deal done. Don’t be surprised if you see Olivier Vernon in black and teal next year.
Add Vernon and a couple of edge rushers in the draft to a defensive line group that already includes Sen’Derrick Marks, Jared Odrick, Roy Miller, and Dante Fowler, and the Jags’ defense might be in for a big jump in 2016.
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