Over the last three off seasons the Jaguars have invested a HUGE amount of resources into building a dominant defense.
In 2015 the team drafted DE Dante Fowler Jr. with the 3rd overall pick. In later rounds the team selected S James Sample and DT Michael Bennett. They also added CB Davon House, LB Dan Skuta, DE Jared Odrick, and FS Sergio Brown to the team via free agency - all of whom are no longer with the team.
In 2016 the Jaguars were even more bullish with their defensive additions. The team selected CB Jalen Ramsey with the fifth overall pick in the draft. They proceeded to select a defensive player in every round of the 2016 draft except for the sixth, landing starters like Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue. In free agency the team signed Malik Jackson to a $90 million deal and also signed FS Tashaun Gipson and CB Prince Amukamara.
In 2017 the Jaguars went all in on their defense via free agency. The team signed star DL Calais Campbell to a deal worth $15 million a year. But they didn't stop there. The Jags signed CB AJ Bouye to a a deal worth $13.5 million a year and signed SS Barry Church to a deal worth $6.5 million a year. The team also selected 3 defensive players in the draft.
See a trend?
So, the Jaguars have invested heavily on the defensive side of the ball in recent years. In 2016 the defense was much improved. The team gave up the 6th fewest yards from scrimmage in the NFL. Problem was the offense repeatedly put the Jaguars defense in bad spots last year. Add in the inability to pressure the QB consistently and thus the inability to force turnovers and you have a unit that needed to improve in 2017.
The Jaguars defense has been up and down through out camp and preseason to this point. In week one of the preseason against the Patriots backup offense the Jaguars starting defense performed quite well - as should be expected against an entire offense of backups.
It was, however, a much different story when the Jaguars returned home to take on the Buccaneers. In two days of joint practices the Buccaneers offense and the Jaguars defense traded punches, both literally and figuratively, but when it came to game time the Jaguars defense was no match. Granted the team was missing AJ Bouye, Jalen Ramsey, and Aaron Colvin, but the Jaguars defense looked tired. The strength of the defense, the line, was physically dominated by the Bucs offensive line. The Jaguars backups CBs were helpless against Jameis Winston and his arsenal of offensive weapons. The Bucs moved the ball with ease.
Needless to say the Jaguars defensive performance left fans longing a bit.
The long awaited return of Jalen Ramsey happened this week and he will play in the Jaguars contest against Carolina, even if it's only for a couple of series.
Carolina, too, has a star returning this week - the former NFL MVP Cam Newton. The combination of Cam Newton, Christian McCaffery, Kelvin Benjamin, Curtis Samuel and the rest of the Panthers offense should be a nice test for the Jaguars defense.
If the Jaguars defense is up to the task tonight, it'll give the coaches, and the fans for that matter, something positive to build on heading into the season. If the Jaguars passing attack is as bad as we think it's going to be in 2017, then the defense will need to carry the load. Having a solid performance tonight would also build confidence for a defense that has new starters and roles at every level.
If the Jaguars defense doesn't perform well on Thursday night, then it will raise even more questions for a team that has not gotten off on the right foot in 2017.
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