Cornerback might be the strongest unit on the team
The Jaguars now have three cornerbacks worthy of starting on the outside. Darious Williams, the Jacksonville-area native, signed with the Jags on Wednesday. The former Los Angeles Rams starting CB has surrendered a completion percentage of just 58.3 during his four-year career. He’s forced eight turnovers and broken up 27 passes over the last three seasons.
Adding him to the mix with Shaquill Griffin, another long-time starter in the NFL, and Tyson Campbell, a 2021 second-round pick who showed star potential over the second half of the season, gives the Jaguars a solid top three at the cornerback position.
But there are still questions to be answered
Even though the Jaguars have three cornerbacks that they undoubtedly feel comfortable with, none have much experience in the slot. Campbell started out in the slot with the Jags last season, but that experiment didn’t go well. Despite standing only 5’9”, Williams has played almost exclusively on the outside during his career. And Griffin has spent virtually no time in the slot as well. While the pieces are there for a plus group of starting corners, the Jaguars will need to figure out how to deploy these talented cornerbacks. Will they determine who aligns where based on matchups? Or will one of these three cornerbacks stick primarily inside? Head coach Doug Pederson and defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell will need to figure out the answer.
Foyesade Oluokun raises the bar at linebacker, but the team isn’t finished
Instead of pairing Foye Oluokun with Myles Jack, the Jaguars are replacing the latter with the former. Jack was released Tuesday and quickly signed on with the Steelers, replacing his former teammate Joe Schobert, who is now looking for work himself. In Jacksonville, Oluokun will take over as the top dog at linebacker. He’s a playmaker who has a nose for the football in the run game. He’s a high-energy player who lays the wood at every chance. Still, the Jaguars will either need to promote from within with a player like Shaq Quarterman or draft a talented linebacker to play next to Oluokun.
Adding a WR1 early in the draft is still critical
Christian Kirk gives the Jaguars a versatile receiver who displays reliable hands, crisp route running, and dangerous speed and acceleration.
And while Zay Jones is a nice depth piece who has size, consistent hands, and some explosive movement ability, he’s a third or fourth receiver on a good offense.
Christian Kirk can certainly be used in a variety of ways and should be moved around the formation, but he should align primarily in the slot. With DJ Chark signing in Detroit, the Jaguars need an X receiver for Trevor Lawrence. A big-bodied, athletic receiver who can get the job done on the outside. It now appears their best opportunity to land one will be at pick number 33, 65, or via trade.
The offensive line is improved, but how much?
Adding Brandon Scherff to the interior of the offensive line was a huge step in the right direction. He’s among the most talented guards in football. But after losing Andrew Norwell and AJ Cann, the Jaguars will now likely rely on third-year OL Ben Bartch. Playing right guard for the injured AJ Cann, Bartch had his fair share of ups and downs in 2021. The Jaguars will have the same group of tackles on the team as well, with Cam Robinson playing on the left side and Jawaan Taylor and Walker Little likely competing to start on the right side. At center, Brandon Linder is an upper-echelon performer and is on the team for now, but general manager Trent Baalke’s comments on Wednesday suggested Linder might not be long for Jacksonville.
“Brandon and I just had a great conversation,” Baalke shared. “We’re working through that as we speak. No decision has been made relative to Brandon as of right now. We’re moving forward.”
As of this moment, the Jaguars appear to have taken a massive step at right guard with Brandon Scherff, but where else are they improved along the offensive line? Walker Little has the talent and upside to be a plus starter, but can he do it on the right side? Will he get a fair shake in a competition with incumbent Jawaan Taylor?
EDGE is likely the pick at one
With the Jaguars not addressing their edge rush in free agency to this point, it looks like they’re headed towards taking a pass rusher at the top of the draft. Aidan Hutchinson has been rumored to be the apple of the team’s collective eye. And that’s where I’d lean if I had to predict the pick. Evan Neal is my top overall prospect, but are the Jags really going to draft him at one and stick him on the inside of the O-Line in year one? I wouldn’t blame them if they did. Protecting Trevor Lawrence at all costs has to be THE priority. Still, I’d lean heavily towards Baalke taking his top defensive end.
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