On Monday, the team released its initial depth chart, and there are some serious surprises. We'll take a look at the season outlook for the defensive side of the ball, given that the starters have now been named.
To kick things off, the Jaguars' starting defensive line returns three players that totaled 14.5 sacks last season and combined for 108 tackles. Josh Allen has 10.5 sacks alone last season upfront, and both Abry Jones and Taven Bryan accounted for two sacks each.
Josh Allen and Adam Gotsis are listed as the two starting defensive ends. Jones and Bryan will be the defensive tackles, but rookie K'Lavon Chaisson will see time as a rotational defensive end as the backup to Allen. The Jaguars selected Chaisson with the 20th overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft. Third-round pick DaVon Hamilton and recent free-agent acquisition Timmy Jernigan should also be heavily featured in the defensive rotation up front. Dawuane Smoot, who racked up six sacks for the Big Cats in 2019, should also see plenty of action on the outside and potentially in the middle in clear passing situations.
In the middle of the defense at linebacker, Myles Jack, Joe Schobert, and Leon Jacobs are listed as the starters. Jack, the starter on the weakside, had 66 tackles and 0.5 sacks last season, and the team is hopeful that his production and overall impact will increase in 2020. Schobert recorded 133 total tackles with two sacks, two forced fumbles, and four picks last year. He could be a major factor in the middle for a talented Jacksonville defense. Jacobs had 42 tackles and two sacks last season. Unless the Jaguars switch to a defense that features more base packages than normal, Jacobs won't see the field more than 20-30% of the defensive snaps. Cassius Marsh will also be a factor at strong-side linebacker and on the edge in explicit pass-rushing situations.
In the secondary, Tre Herndon and C.J. Henderson will be the two starting cornerbacks. The Jaguars selected Henderson 9th overall in this year's draft and are optimistic about his tremendous upside. He is a player that will help replace the losses of Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, and the rookie could produce solid numbers in his first season. For Herndon, he is coming off a 2019 season in which he recorded 55 tackles with 13 passes defended and three interceptions. The Jaguars' young cornerbacks will need to prove they can hang with some of the top passing offenses in the NFL, but DJ Hayden has already established himself as one of the top slot defenders in football, a fact the Jaguars' coaching staff can take solace in.
At safety, Jarrod Wilson and Josh Jones are the listed starters. Wilson had 79 total tackles in 2019, which led the team, including 5.5 tackles for loss. He also recorded four passes defended and two interceptions. He looked solid during training camp and has retained his role as one of the starting safeties. For Jones, he will replace Ronnie Harrison, who the Jaguars traded to the Cleveland Browns last week. Jones finished the 2019 season with the Dallas Cowboys where he had two tackles in six games and played mostly on special teams. His role in Jacksonville will be more defined, which gives him the opportunity to prove his worth to the coaching staff as the season goes along.
Also at safety, Daniel Thomas, Andrew Wingard, and Brandon Watson could see playing time this season.
With the Jaguars' first game just days away, the defense is raring to go against a run-heavy Colts' attack. Despite losing great talent like Yannick Ngakoue, Calais Campbell, and AJ Bouye, the team has talent at every position, albeit young.
This is a Jaguars defense that recorded 47 sacks as a team last season. Though they are losing elite talent on the line, the players that are filling the starting roles are more than capable of establishing a well rounded defensive unit. Jacksonville could have upwards of 50+ sacks this season, given the talent they have on the defensive line and in the middle at linebacker.
It will be interesting to see just how the defense adjusts to losing those key players as the season goes on. If the Jaguars offense falters early on, the defense will have to step up and lead the way, which might prove difficult with so many new pieces.
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