As we inch closer and closer to the 2022 NFL Draft, we're also making our way towards OTAs and minicamps. You know, when teams start to play football.
An annual step in the NFL offseason is the League Meetings that occur around this time every year. Jaguars' head coach Doug Pederson met with the media on Monday from the League Meetings and touched on a wide variety of topics, including Carson Wentz, aggressiveness on fourth down, DJ Chark's departure, and what type of defensive scheme the Jaguars will employ in 2022.
It's long been assumed that the Jaguars would run a base 3-4 defense. After all, new defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell has been Todd Bowles' — one of the top defensive minds in the game — top lieutenant for nearly a decade. Bowles is a 3-4 disciple who loves to call an aggressive defense.
On Monday, Doug Pederson confirmed the Jaguars would indeed run a base 3-4.
"We're gonna base it out of the 3-4," Pederson shared. "But it's so multiple in nature. The base will be 3-4, but offenses are playing so much 11-personnel that you're gonna in a four-down line, a 4-2, a lot. So, it'll be multiple in nature that way."
A 3-4 defense with multiple looks? Sound familiar? It should.
In 2021, Jaguars defensive coordinator Joe Cullen — who, like Mike Caldwell, was taking on the role of defensive coordinator for the first time — also ran a 3-4 defense with multiple fronts. Cullen was highly aggressive and proactive with his blitz packages. Jaguars fans should expect the same from Mike Caldwell.
At his introductory press conference, Caldwell shared some background on his influences and philosophy.
"My history and my influences have been Todd Bowles, Jim Johnson, John Harbaugh, just to name a few, and that's just my nature," said Caldwell. "I believe as a coach, when you're on the defense, you have to affect the quarterback, you have to affect the offense, and that enables you to go out there and be successful."
"Just the philosophy," Caldwell continued. "If you're attacking on defense, you're going to make the offense adjust to what you're doing, and if you affect them the right way, show a look this way and come from somewhere else, affect them the right way, now it disrupts their timing and advantage defense."
So, we now know that the Jaguars are going to call an attacking, multiple front, base 3-4 defense. Again, this sounds an awful lot like what we saw in 2021 from Joe Cullen.
But these will not be the same exact defenses, at least not to start the season.
Joe Cullen was rooted in the Baltimore brand of defense, which featured the 3-4 front and the exotic blitzes, but was a man-heavy philosophy. He entered the season trying to run mostly man coverages and the Jaguars got off to a rough start on that side of the ball, especially in coverage. Opposing offensive coordinators were — predictably — running a ton of man beaters, and the Jaguars' secondary didn't have any answers. But as Cullen watched his guys, he made adjustments, calling more zone coverages on the back end, playing to the strengths of his secondary personnel.
In theory, Joe Cullen's experiments should benefit Mike Caldwell and the new regime. Why? Caldwell's primary mentor, Todd Bowles, leans heavily on mixed zone coverages in the back end. Learning from Cullen's process of trial and error that young guys like Tyson Campbell are much more comfortable reading the QB in zone coverage should play into what Mike Caldwell is already comfortable with.
Joe Cullen struggled to get his guys playing complementary defense last season. If the secondary was putting on the clamps, the run defense seemed to stumble and vice-versa. To get the Jaguars' defense back on track in 2022, Mike Caldwell will need to find more balance. Adding talented veterans like linebacker Foye Oluokun, cornerback Darious Williams, defensive tackle Foley Fatukasi, and potentially a pass rusher with the top overall pick in the draft should aid Caldwell in his quest to get the Jaguars' defense playing at a higher level.
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