The Jaguars enter the 2021 regular season with a new head coach, coaching staff, quarterback, and at least ten new starters. With that being said, it's a bit difficult to pinpoint precisely where the Jaguars will be up to snuff and where they'll struggle. Yesterday, I broke down the big questions I think the Jaguars are facing entering year one of the Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence experience. Today, I'll look at one of the areas that this team should excel.
On paper, Malcom Brown, DaVon Hamilton, Roy Robertson-Harris, Josh Allen, and K'Lavon Chaisson make up a solid run-stopping defensive front. Brown has been a big-time run-stuffer in this type of defensive system for years. Hamilton is as strong as they come and turned a corner prior to a knee injury during his rookie season in 2020. RRH has always been a valuable role player against the run for the Bears and will now get his time to shine in a more prominent role. His strength and length serve him well up and down the line of scrimmage. Josh Allen is a plus run defender on the edge, and K'Lavon Chaisson is underrated in that part of the game due to his lack of bulk.
At the second level of the defense, the Jaguars have Damien Wilson and Myles Jack in the starting lineup. Wilson, a 2020 free-agent signing, brings strength and downhill explosiveness to the position. While he may not be an asset in coverage, the former Super Bowl champion is a thumper that will help this team against the run. Myles Jack is one of the most talented linebackers in football. He had been miscast for a couple of seasons as a 4-3 middle linebacker, but in 2020, when the Jaguars' former coaching staff unleashed Jack at weakside linebacker, he had his best season to date and regularly punished ball carriers around the line of scrimmage. He'll be in a similar role this year, playing next to Damien Wilson. This duo should have no problem providing support against the run.
Assuming Andre Cisco is on the field for the majority of the snaps, the Jaguars' safeties should also be valuable against the run. Joe Cullen will call his defensive aggressively, which means you'll regularly see safeties at or around the line of scrimmage. Despite being a rookie coming off an ACL tear, Andre Cisco has been technically sound and hasn't shown any signs of not knowing where to be. He's got all the physical tools to be an impact player at the NFL level, and we've seen no reason to believe he won't be early on. The other starting safety for the Jaguars, Rayshawn Jenkins, comes over the Chargers and has good instincts, plays speed, and energy coming off the edge against the run. As long as Cisco gets most of the snaps opposite Jenkins, this group will be a significant aid against the run.
What we've seen so far in training camp and the preseason has been nothing short of impressive. This unit allowed an average of just 60 rushing yards per game during the preseason and didn't give up a single rushing touchdown. Look for the Jaguars' run defense to make a massive leap under Joe Cullen's guidance. In 2020, this club couldn't stop the run, surrendering 153 yards per game on the ground, the third-worst mark in the NFL. However, I believe they'll flip the script and make the jump to the top half of the league and potentially even into the top ten against the run. This group of players combined with Joe Cullen's experience as a defensive line coach, and his Baltimore-inspired system, should translate to success against the run in Jax. With a strong run defense, the Jaguars' should have plenty of opportunities to get off the field on third and long to medium. But will the pass rush and coverage be enough?
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