The Jaguars lost defensive tackle, Al Woods, for the season on Friday when he informed the team of his decision to opt-out of playing in 2020.
Woods signed with the Jaguars earlier this offseason and was excepted to take over as the run-stuffing, gap controlling defensive tackle. It was a position formerly held by Marcell Dareus, who missed the final ten games of 2020 with a core muscle injury.
Now that Woods is out of the picture for 2020, the Jaguars have some work to do at defensive tackle. Rookie DaVon Hamilton projects to be able to take over as the primary run defender on the interior for the Jaguars, but he shouldn't be needlessly thrust into a starting role from the get-go. Abry Jones is also still on the roster, but he's better suited as a role player at this point in his career. Dontavius Russell, a seventh-round pick in 2019, has the size to play the big defensive tackle role for the Jaguars, but he did little to prove he's ready for an increased role in 2020.
Fortunately for the Jags, there are several quality veteran defensive tackles available on the free-agent market.
Marcell Dareus - the same man who has occupied the Jaguars' big DT spot for much of the last three years, is still available. Dareus is 30 years old now and would likely be a cost-effective replacement for Woods. The Jaguars' run defense wasn't perfect with Dareus on the field in 2019, but they were much better with him than without. During the six games Dareus played in '19, the Jags allowed 117 yards per game on the ground, a far cry from the 152 rushing yards per game they allowed without him.
Mike Daniels - he's struggled with his health over the last two seasons, but even at 31 years old, the former Pro Bowler is playing at a high level.
Damon Harrison - One of Daniels' D-Line running mates in 2019, Harrison is a massive presence on the interior at 6'3" and 353 pounds. He can still help stop the run 31 years old.
Timmy Jernigan, Domata Peko, and Jarran Reed could be other feasible options.
Several starting defensive tackles around the league have decided to opt-out leading up to the 2020 season. So if the Jaguars want to land one of these veteran run-stopping DTs, they may need to act fast.
But Doug Marrone's comments on Monday indicated that the team might be comfortable with the players they've got at defensive tackle. "We drafted a nose guard high," said Marrone. "Some people said that might be too high for a two-down player, but you know Hamilton we feel he is a really good player and he can play in there, Abry can play in there. We've got some guys that can play in there, so again, we'll see where we are. Roster wise, you're just kind of waiting to see what you have before you maybe look other places. I think the first thing you're going to do if something happens, is you're going to look from within, and we feel like we have people that can play there. And obviously, we'll see how it goes between now and the start of the season."
Marrone may feel comfortable with his defensive tackles, but GM Dave Caldwell should be wise enough to know that depth, talent, and experience are keys for the Jaguars at the nose tackle spot.
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