The Jacksonville Jaguars finished the 2017-18 NFL season with 55.0 sacks, second best in the NFL, only behind the Pittsburgh Steelers (56.0). One crucial piece for this pass rush for “Sacksonville” was the interior defensive line’s ability to create pressure.
The Jaguars bolstered their defensive line last offseason with the addition of Calais Campbell, who was versatile for the Jaguars last season, being named an All-Pro at both defensive tackle (second-team) and defensive end (first-team). Campbell burst onto the scene for the Jaguars in the first game of the season against the Houston Texans, when he broke the franchise record for sacks in a game (4.0). Campbell would finish his first season with the Jaguars with the team record for sacks in a season (14.5).
As the season progressed, a flaw in the Jaguars defensive line started to become very clear; the interior was getting slashed with run plays down the middle. The Jaguars wasted no time to address the situation before it was too late. Their solution? Trading a fifth-round pick to the Buffalo Bills for former 2011 third overall pick, Marcell Dareus. Dareus was a significant upgrade to the Jaguars nose tackle spot and turned the Jaguars from the worst run defense (138.6 Yds/G) to the best in the league (55.3 Yds/G) following the acquisition of Dareus. In recent interviews with Dareus, he appears to be settling in well in Jacksonville and the Jaguars could be in for some career numbers from the tackle, who seems to be trending back up in his career unlike near the end of his stint in Buffalo.
Projected defensive tackle depth chart
*Note: Italics = projected starter, Underline = Acquired in 2018 FA/Draft*
Nose Tackle: Marcell Dareus, Abry Jones
Defensive Tackle: Malik Jackson, Taven Bryan, Calais Campbell, Eli Ankou
Going into the 2017 season, The Jaguars only carried ten defensive linemen. The split was five defensive ends and five defensive tackles. My guess is they stay very similar to that structure this season as well. The good news for the Jaguars is they have guys like Calais Campbell and Taven Bryan, who will be used all across the defensive line, which gives the Jaguars a little bit of flexibility if an injury were to occur along the line.
A wild card to make the 53-man roster to start the season is UNLV DT Mike Hughes Jr. Hughes Jr. was signed in the initial wave of Jaguars UDFA’s following the 2018 NFL draft. Per Ourlads.com, Hughes is listed as a nose tackle and could make the roster as NT depth, but with the offense likely to be taking more spots than usual, the defense might have to sacrifice a tad bit of depth. Look for Hughes Jr. to be a practice squad candidate if he doesn’t make the Jaguars initial 53-man roster.
All in all, the Jaguars interior defensive line doesn’t seem to be in line for any major shakeups. The biggest addition was when the Jaguars selected former Florida defensive tackle, Taven Bryan, 29th overall in the 2018 NFL draft. Bryan provides versatility across the line and could line up at the big end spot quite a bit this season, which might mean that Campbell could be seeing more time inside this season. Bryan provides insane amounts of burst at the point of attack and should give offensive linemen some trouble this upcoming season.
Grade breakdowns 2017 (Per ProFootballFocus.com)
Malik Jackson- 86.4 OVR/81.7 Rush Def/83.4 Pass Rush
Marcell Dareus- 79.7 OVR/79.1 Rush Def/72.7 Pass Rush
Abry Jones- 77.0 OVR/73.9 Rush Def/72.7 Pass Rush
Eli Ankou- 59.9 OVR/60.0 Rush Def/57.0 Pass Rush
Taven Bryan- N/A
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