Over the last two seasons, the Jacksonville Jaguars have been objectively bad. A combined record of 11-21 in '18 and '19 — this after a magical run to the AFC title game in '17 — has led to plenty of frustration, turmoil, and turnover inside the building.
As poor as their overall record has been, the Jaguars have been even worse inside the division, with a record of 3-9 against the AFC South over the last two years.
What has been the Jaguars' Achilles heel?
Stopping the run.
All three of their divisional opponents boast strong ground games and finished in the top ten in rushing last season. While their entire division has been geared up to pound the rock, the Jaguars' defense has been about as effective as one-ply toilet paper against these strong ground attacks. In their nine losses to divisional opponents during the last two seasons, the Jaguars have allowed a staggering 188 yards per game on the ground. In their three wins? Just 88.
Their divisional opponents' strong rushing attacks don't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. The Titans just locked up Derrick Henry on a long-term deal, while the Texans added David Johnson, and the Colts drafted Jonathan Taylor in the second round.
But the Jaguars should be better equipped to handle their divisional foes in 2020, especially when it comes to defending the run. The additions of Al Woods and DaVon Hamilton at their big defensive tackle spot should help the Jaguars immensely when it comes to controlling the line of scrimmage and clogging up rushing lanes. Both defenders stand 6'4'' tall and weigh in at over 320 pounds.
Next to them, Taven Bryan will step into a starting role. The former first-round pick excelled as a run-stuffer in 2019, regularly blowing plays up in the backfield. With a bigger role, Bryan should begin to earn the recognition he deserves. Rodney Gunter, who came over from Arizona, and Abry Jones, the Jaguars' longest-tenured player, will both help out as depth pieces behind the starters.
On the edge, the Jaguars could actually be improved against the run. Calais Campbell will be missed, but the emergence of second-year defensive end Josh Allen should help in that regard. And if disgruntled pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue sits out in 2020, the Jaguars' edge group could be more consistent against the run. Ngakoue is a terror against the pass, but as a run defender, he's more of a boom or bust type. Getting a more steady player out there could help on early downs against the run. First-round pick K'Lavon Chaisson, despite being undersized, proved to be an adept run defender during his final season at LSU.
The linebacker play should be dramatically improved. The primary off-ball linebackers for the Jaguars will be Joe Schobert in the middle and Myles Jack on the weak side. Both players should excel in their roles and develop a comfort level with each other early on. Jack was out of position in 2018 and '19 at middle linebacker, but Schobert is a true pro and will help everyone around him play at a higher level, including Myles Jack. Shaq Quarterman, one of the Jaguars' fourth-round picks, is a big-time run stuffer, who should be able to help in that department if injuries arise.
The Jaguars' returning starting safeties, Ronnie Harrison and Jarrod Wilson, are both excellent rolling downhill against the run and should continue to build chemistry in their second year starting together.
At cornerback, Rashaan Melvin is an elite run defender, as is DJ Hayden in the slot, while Tre Herndon is more than willing to sacrifice his body in run defense. Ninth overall pick CJ Henderson is a capable run defender but will need to show that he's consistently willing to get down and dirty at the next level.
With the addition of more depth and talent in key areas, the Jaguars' front office certainly had their eye on slowing down opponent's rushing attacks in 2020. And they'll need to be able to do so.
Aside from their divisional foes, the Jaguars have plenty of other tough run-first teams on their 2020 schedule. They'll take on the Vikings, Ravens, and Packers during the second half of the season, with all three contests being on the road.
The Jaguars' new pieces will need to mesh quickly, as they take on the Colts (seventh in total rushing) and Titans (third in total rushing) in consecutive weeks to start the season.
Follow Jordan on Twitter for all the latest Jaguars news and analysis.
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