We have reached the conclusion of yet another disappointing Jacksonville Jaguars season. For me, and most of you all, this one stings the worst and that’s simply because I wholeheartedly anticipated some form of success from this season in the win/loss column. While success didn’t materialize, we can be reassured by the fact that we do have some good and even great young talent on our roster. Let’s take a look at the final rookie report of the season.
Jalen Ramsey: Ramsey made headlines for more than his play after the Jaguars regular season finale in Indianapolis. He made comments about the coaching staff, saying that he was “caged”, which is something that we’ve heard from a few other players in recent weeks. For a lot of the more ardent Jags fans, and especially for us here at Gen Jag, this didn’t surprise us a whole lot and we’ve actually been saying similar sentiments to this for quite a while. Our defense was exceptionally conservative and to be frank, boring with the exception of our win over the Titans on Christmas Eve. We clearly underutilize our star athletes with play calling that lacks creativity. When a team’s offense was as turnover prone as ours was this season, the Jaguars needed to try to force turnovers with our defense and our play calling did us no favors in that department. This lack of creativity, combined with Bortles inadequacies is exactly why our team was 30th in the league in turnover margin.
This unfortunate topic that Ramsey had the displeasure to get involved with, actually has nothing to do with him or his play. This year’s first round pick was a breath of fresh air into a defense that struggled mightily in 2015, especially defending the passing game. It is my opinion that we have the current defensive rookie of the year and a future pro bowler wearing number 20 in black and teal. My hat is off to this young man’s intensity and football acumen at probably the second hardest position in football. Not bad, young blood.
2016 stats: 65 total tackles/ 2 INT / 14 PD
Dante Fowler Jr.: Probably our most criticized rookie from this year in Dante Fowler, but I would argue that he was most definitely our most underutilized rookie. I know many of you will say this was Myles Jack, but when I say underutilized, I don’t mean didn’t get snaps, I just mean that the play calling wasn’t designed for Fowler to succeed. This was hands down our least creative area on our defense. Dante comes from a University of Florida team that already, in college, is more creative with their defensive line schemes than what he was asked to do in the pros. At UF, Dante was moving all along the defensive line; playing defensive tackle, end, and some linebacker. I can probably count on one hand how many times they called stunts for Dante and most of those either ended up in a QB hit, hurry or sack. We all remember how hard Dante hit Marcus Mariota in the second to last game against the Titans, and that was off a called stunt. Also, I saw a lot of improvement in his run recognition toward the end of the season and he was caught up field chasing the quarterback on running plays a lot less. I’m hoping that a change in defensive coaching staff will improve his production and it sounds like Mr. Fowler feels the same way.
Fowler was one of those other players who complained about feeling “caged” in Todd Wash’s defense and I couldn’t agree more. Now, having said that, he still definitely has some stuff to work on. Dante Fowler Jr. was probably the first or second most athletic player at his position in his draft class, but he is a very raw talent skill wise. We saw him have loads of trouble getting his hands locked in on blocks and letting lineman get their hands on him and then not be able to get free in time to pressure the QB. He needs to develop more tools to separate himself from blocks, which he has pledged to work on with Von Miller, a guy with similar athleticism and build, in the offseason.
If this offers any comfort to you at all, Vic Beasley, who was drafted after Fowler and has 15.5 sacks this season, had only four sacks during his rookie campaign. Dante has four this year and just as much, if not more athleticism. Many of you are calling for pass-rushers in the upcoming draft, but I think we have our guys already. We just have to get more creative coaching and FREE DANTE!
2016 stats: 32 total tackles/ 4.0 sacks
Yannick Ngakoue: In the last game against the Colts, Ngakoue broke the Jaguars rookie sack record previously held by Tony Brackens, finishing with eight sacks on the year. The issues with play calling never really seemed to affect Ngakoue, which (hopefully) means that he is only going to get better under a new coaching staff. I will say, operating at the end position with Malik Jackson opening up room for you doesn’t hurt, but Yannick had a fantastic year all the same. This young guy has a bright future ahead of him.
2016 stats: 22 total tackles/ 8.0 sacks/ 4.0 FF
Myles Jack: It’s hard to judge how well Myles Jack played this year because this coaching staff didn’t really give him a chance. We saw flashes of his abilities in the passing game; for example, his defended pass this weekend on a Colts receiver. We also saw his speed at times. But unfortunately he never got enough meaningful reps in games to truly evaluate him. The reasoning as to why he didn’t get more playing time on passing downs has still to this day never really been explained, but I still maintain he has to be a better option that Poz or Skuta when we know the opposition is going to put the ball in the air. I guess for Jack, we’re still in a “wait and see” kind of situation.
2016 stats: 24 total tackles/ 0.5 sack
Sheldon Day: Sheldon Day unfortunately was somewhat buried on the depth chart this year by a vastly improved Malik Jackson and veteran Sen’Derrick Marks. His best game was probably the Week 16 matchup against the Titans in which he recorded his first career sack on quarterback Marcus Mariota. However, whenever Day was in we saw a lot of push and disruption created in the middle. I’m sure it can’t be a bad thing to sit behind Marks and Jackson and learn from two solid veteran defensive tackles.
For the future, it’s tough to say as of now what Day’s role will be within our new defensive coordinators scheme. Overall, I like the fire the Day plays with and the size that he has.
2016 stats: 6 total tackles/ 1.0 sacks
I really like where the future of the Jaguars defense is headed, led by a good group of 2016 rookies. I know this wasn’t the year that we all had planned, but I can assure you this much losing is new to our rookie players as well. It’s up to them to get this ship turned around. Above all, go Jaguars.
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