The Jaguars addressed a number of positional needs via free agency this offseason. But with the exodus of Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue not looking likely ever to don a Jaguars' uniform again, do the Jaguars need to address their outside pass rush early in the upcoming draft?
The team still has Josh Allen on his rookie contract for the next four seasons. He showed as a rookie in 2019 that he's more than capable of being the lead dog for the Jacksonville edge rush. As a player just scratching the surface, Allen put up 10.5 sacks and was solid against the run.
After that, though, there are plenty of question marks when it comes to the Jaguars' pass rush coming off the edge.
Dawuane Smoot had a mini-breakout in 2019, racking up six sacks as a rotational pass rusher. But Smoot did not consistently create pressure, and he had never recorded a sack until last season. Smoot's best role when it comes to getting after the passer may be from the interior.
Rodney Gunter came over from Arizona in free agency. Gunter will likely rotate around from the big end spot to the interior, similarly to Dawuane Smoot. Gunter is a solid role player that can provide some pass rush, but he's not a guy that should be relied upon heavily to generate pressure.
Outside of that, you've got Lerentee McCray and Cassius Marsh, both of whom can give you some edge-rushing ability but in smaller doses. Chuck Harris is also on the roster, but he didn't hit the field once in 2019.
Do the Jaguars have enough of an outside pass rush? The answer is quite obviously no. When Todd Wash's defense has been at it's best, they've had at least two legitimate threats off the edge. The Jaguars should do their best to ensure they get a strong edge-rusher in the draft, which is just two and a half weeks away.
But when is the time to strike? At nine overall, there won't be a player that makes a ton of sense. Chase Young will be off the board with the second pick. There's a precipitous drop-off in talent after Young. The next best edge rusher is K'Lavon Chaisson. He would be a bit of a reach at nine, but if the Jaguars traded down to the mid-teens, Chaisson could be a great pick. He turned it on for LSU over the last half of 2019. With his athleticism and ability to play the run, Chaisson has a high enough floor and a ceiling that's' through the roof.
Maybe the Jaguars go cornerback or wide receiver with their first pick.
At 20, Yetur Gross-Matos or AJ Epenesa could make sense. Both players have the frame, pass-rush potential, and run-stuffing ability to be long term replacements for Calais Campbell at big end.
Beyond that, Josh Uche and Zack Baun project as guys who could be pass rush specialists for the Jaguars in the second round. In the third round, Jonathan Greenard or Jabari Zuniga from Florida would be strong additions.
The Jaguars need a long term answer to be Robin to Josh Allen's Batman. Striking on a defensive end in the first three rounds should yield early results in 2019, and help build stability long term.
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