Another day, another Jaguars' position group to breakdown. This time, I'm peeling back the curtain on the defensive ends in Duval.
As it currently stands, this is the most talented position group on the squad and maybe one of the best in all of football. Of course, the "as it currently stands" modifier is key here. Yannick Ngakoue, the team's top edge rusher, has made his desire to leave Jacksonville clear. The Jaguars placed the franchise tag on Ngakoue earlier this offseason, but he has yet to sign the tender and reportedly has no intention to do so. He wants a trade. But to strike a deal with another team, Jacksonville GM Dave Caldwell and the rest of the front office want what they believe is fair compensation for the ascending pass rusher. Therein lies the issue: the Jaguars aren't going to trade Ngakoue unless they receive adequate compensation. And the fact is, there isn't a single team around the league that has offered a fair deal in Dave Caldwell's eyes.
So, Ngakoue is still a Jaguar. Will he sit out the 2020 season if not traded? Might he suit up for the Jaguars in an attempt to prove his worth to teams around the league heading into the 2021 offseason? Time will tell.
But there's plenty of talent along the edge, even if Ngakoue goes awol or gets dealt.
Josh Allen (the good one) burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2019. The Jaguars wasted no time selecting him with the seventh overall pick out of Kentucky last offseason, and the rest is history. The young edge rusher was in Calais Campbell's hip pocket all summer and learned some valuable tricks of the trade from the man formerly known as "The Mayor of Sacksonville." Allen then led all rookies in sacks with 10.5, despite not having a full-time role. This year, Allen will be tasked with taking on more snaps, which should be a boon for the Jaguars' defense as he excels as a pass rusher and in run defense. The sky is the limit for the gifted young defensive end. As he enters year two, expectations couldn't be higher for Allen.
The list of talented young players continues with K'Lavon Chaisson. The redshirt sophomore from LSU fell to the Jaguars, and they nabbed him with the 20th overall selection in April's Draft. A prodigious talent, Chaisson wreaked havoc down the stretch for the eventual National Champions. His skill set is reminiscent of Josh Allen. Both players have all the physical gifts you could ask for in an edge rusher, but Chaisson is a tad bit raw, which comes as no surprise after just two seasons on the gridiron in college. But the arrow is certainly pointing up, as Chaisson racked up 4.5 sacks over his last four games in college. Like Josh Allen, Chaisson appears to be a reliable run defender. His role in 2020 might depend on Yannick Ngakoue's availability. If Ngakoue suits up, I'd expect Chaisson to earn a similar amount of snaps to what Josh Allen did in his rookie year. But if Ngakoue isn't available, Chaisson could be tasked with close to a full-time role as a rookie.
Even beyond the top three, there are some impressive players on the edge in Duval.
Dawuane Smoot, a 2017 third-round pick, struggled with injuries and had a tough time cracking the lineup until 2019. Smoot was still a rotational player for the Jaguars last season, but he made the most of the snaps he was allotted, racking up six sacks.
With Lerentee McCray still on the squad, the Jaguars have a tenured veteran that can get after the passer in spot duties as well.
Dave Caldwell also added two veterans in free agency that rush from the edge. Cassius Marsh has produced at least 20 pressures in each of the last four campaigns despite being a role player. And Aaron Lynch, originally drafted by the Jaguars' current director of player personnel Trent Balke, also signed on with the Jaguars. He's dealt with some injuries over the years, but if his first two seasons in the league, in which he totaled over 100 pressures are any indication of his talent, Lynch could be a gem at the back end of the roster.
The Jaguars are talented and deep on the edge. This unit could be amongst the leagues best when it comes to pressuring the QB. If Ngakoue doesn't play, their ceiling may be somewhat capped in 2020. While Allen could quickly push for 12+ sacks in his sophomore campaign, it may take some time for K'Lavon Chaisson to become a consistent producer in the pass rush department. The group should be stout against the run, maybe even more so if Ngakoue departs.
Grade (with Ngakoue): A-
Grade (sans Ngakoue): B
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