Counting down the top Jaguars of 2019 has been an enjoyable exercise. So far we've had (in ascending order), Dede Westbrook, Andrew Norwell, Myles Jack, and Nick Foles. All but one of the remaining players will be on the defensive side of the ball.
Coming in at number six: Marcell Dareus
He might not be the name that many expected here. With the laundry list of defensive stars in Jacksonville, Dareus is oft-overlooked. But he shouldn't be.
Marcell Dareus arrived in Jacksonville mid-way through the 2017 season. His addition helped turn the Jaguars' previously-atrocious run defense around. He ultimately helped the team get to within minutes of their first Super Bowl appearance.
For the majority of the 2018 season Dareus was, yet again, tasked with clogging running lanes for the Jaguars. He certainly got the job done in the rush defense department. But after the benching of Malik Jackson, Dareus' role expanded. He thrived. Over the last four weeks of the 2018 regular season, Dareus recorded six QB hurries, half of his season total. He racked up 21 stops (tackles made in an area of the field that benefited the Jaguars' defense, per Pro Football Focus), and 32 total tackles. Without him, the Jaguars' defense would not have been near as stout against the run. The team finished tied for 11th best, allowing 4.3 yards per carry.
Dareus hasn't put up the flashiest stats since getting to Duval, but his impact should not be undersold. And he could be in line for an even bigger year in 2019. He'll be starting once again, and his head coach believes he can he do a lot more than just stuff the run.
"When he came here, I think he wanted to do such a good job stopping the run," said Doug Marrone. "I told him, where's this guy that can get after the passer? Because he's a very, very talented player. He said coach, 'I came here to stop the run.' I said I know that and I appreciate that. But I really think we're going to get more out of him and he's going to be a more dominant player going into next season. I'm excited. I spoke to him, and he's excited. And I'm glad that we're together."
Dareus agreed to restructure his contract this offseason, saving the team $5 million towards the cap in 2019. If he's able to recapture his pass-rushing magic, as his head coach believes he will, Dareus could prove to be one of the five best players on the team.
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