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Jaguars 2019 position group breakdown: Defensive Lineman

Brandon Carroll

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Jan 7, 2018; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell (93) runs onto the field before the game against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Wild Card playoff football game at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

As we finish up our series on positional battles here on Locked On Jaguars, it’s time to take a look at the big men down front on the Jacksonville defense. One that in the past few years has been very stingy in terms of yardage allowed and overall production. They have relied heavily on them to win games due to the poor offensive play. A huge part of that success is due to the defensive line.

In previous seasons, the Jaguars defensive line has been the strongest position group in terms of depth and pure talent on the team. A group that has consistently been atop the league as one of the best pass-rushing units. In the draft, the Jaguars added arguably the best pass rusher in the nation coming out of college in Josh Allen to complement the other lineman on the field. Allen looks to take on a big role for the defense and help them to elevate the unit as a whole in 2019. 

Projected Depth Chart: 

DE: Yannick Ngakoue, Calais Campbell, Josh Allen, Dawaune Smoot, Lerentee McCray, Lyndon Johnson 

DT: Marcel Dareus, Taven Bryan, Abry Jones, Eli Anoku, Dontavius Russell 

Yannick Ngakoue 

With ongoing contract disputes, Yannick Ngakoue has not reported to training camp and is a concern going into the season. Ngakoue is one of the most explosive defensive players in the NFL with a knack for getting to the football.  Ngakoue looks to holdout until the Jaguars make an offer that he feels is suitable in comparison to his play and production on the field. 

If Ngakoue continues to stay away from the facility, the Jaguars are at a huge disadvantage. Him not being there will have an impact for the rookies on defense as they will lack a leader to follow and it could cause them to stunt in growth without the dynamic presence of Ngakoue on the field to mentor them and create a smooth transition to the NFL. A guy that secured 25 tackles and 9.5 sacks last season could be a huge help in fine-tuning rookie Josh Allen for his first season in the NFL. 

In his fourth year out of Maryland, Ngakoue has exceeded all expectations given to him when he was drafted in the third round. He quickly became one of the most dynamic players on the end of the line has a chance to earn a huge payday soon before the preseason kicks off August 8th in Baltimore. 

With the amount of production Ngakoue has shown in terms of pass rush in his three years in the league, Jacksonville is attempting to work out a deal that will work for both sides. 

Calais Campbell 

On the other end of the line, there’s one of the biggest powerhouses on the Jacksonville defense. Calais Campbell came over from Arizona before the 2017 season and finished his first career game with the team with 4 sacks against the Houston Texans. Campbell is a leader on the defensive line and his veteran experience has allowed for more discipline upfront. 

Coming off a season where Campbell leads the Jaguars in sacks with 10.5, Campbell looks to continue that dominance and help lead a Jacksonville team that has the potential to produce wins on the defensive side. Campbell has started every game since arriving in Jacksonville and looks to continue starting in some capacity along the defensive line once again this season. 

With the effectiveness Campbell has shown in recent years, the Jaguars have truly bought in on the idea that he is the most important piece of the defensive puzzle — at least for the time being. Seeing how he handles himself and his body as he continues to age will be huge if the Jaguars look to stay successful upfront. 

The starters — as of right now — on the interior include Taven Bryan and Marcel Dareus. Two large forces that are monsters against the run game, and can create inside push for edge rushers to get to the quarterback on pass plays.

Taven Bryan 

Bryan is in his second year out of Florida and looks to take on the role he was drafted for in the post-Malik Jackson era. Bryan — or the Wyoming Wildman — is attempting to make the full transition he struggled to make last season. If he can live up to the expectations he was given when he was drafted in the first round just a year ago. 

Marcel Dareus

On the other hand, Dareus is undoubtedly one of the best interior run stoppers in the league today and has the experience to mentor backups such as Jaguars draftee Dontavious Russell out of Auburn or Eli Ankou. Dareus has matured since arriving in Jacksonville from Buffalo and has played well for the Jaguars in that time. Accumulating 32 total tackles, a sack, and one forced fumble in 15 games. While the number is not eye-popping by any means, his stature upfront causes a problem for opposing teams to run game. Especially in short yard situations. 

Josh Allen

Next, is quite possibly one of the most important backups on the team in Josh Allen. Allen, — arguably the best pass rusher coming out of college this season — was a steal for Jacksonville at 7th overall. Allen combines is a mixture of size and speed to be able to get after the quarterback and drop back into coverage when necessary. 

The biggest plus is his ability to play in coverage as a linebacker. The versatility he brings to the table could be huge due to the lack of linebacker depth Jacksonville has this year without Telvin Smith. Having guys that can drop back into coverage on tight ends will be a tremendous advantage for Jacksonville. Although Allen is unlikely to take many snaps at the linebacker position, he illustrates great versatility and athleticism which is key to providing the most impact along the defensive line.

Backup defensive ends

The backups at defensive end round out with Dawuane Smoot, who continues to develop in the backup role at defensive end and has shown the coaching staff he can get it done when on the field, Lerentee McCray who brings a powerful punch to the special teams unit and has even seen time as a linebacker in previous years for the Jaguars. As well as, Lyndon Johnson who was brought back in after Zedrick Woods abruptly retired from football before even seeing the field in the NFL. 

Backup Defensive Lineman

Abry Jones looks to continue being utilized as a rotational lineman in certain situations, and will likely play many snaps this season at defensive tackle for the Jaguars. As for Eli Anoku and Dontavious Russell, they will each fight for playing time and could even see the field if an injury arises on that defensive line. 

There are many talented players on the Jaguars defensive line that can hold it together. The biggest question right now is whether or not Ngakoue will return with a renewed contract. That looming idea that he may not be paid could start to cause problems and lead to the dividing of the locker room on the situation if the Jaguars front office isn’t careful. Paying Yannick seems to be the viable option right now. But, how much is enough in Ngakoue’s eyes?

It’s imperative that he gets what he deserves for the ship to run smoothly on the defensive line in 2019. 

Brandon Carroll is an 18-year-old college student aspiring to be a sports journalist. Has written articles over the past few years for fun and had two published within In The Game magazine. Locked On Jags is his first real opportunity to showcase his writing and love for football.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Life after former Jaguars superstar cornerback Jalen Ramsey

Demetrius Harvey

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Sep 19, 2019; Jacksonville, FL, USA; General view of the stadium prior to the game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The trade many expected to happen, did happen, and possibly sooner than anticipated. Now, with Jalen Ramsey off of the team, what’s next for the Jaguars in 2019 and beyond?

All good things must come to an end. At least that is what the majority of Jaguars fans will tell themselves after the team shipped off one of their most prized possessions on a late Tuesday evening.

The Jaguars (2-4) traded Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams yesterday for a significant haul. Compensation the Jaguars were ultimately pining for from the very beginning. After reportedly turning down numerous deals for the star cornerback, the team finally gave in after Ramsey was declared a no-go this past Sunday following a meeting with Jaguars owner Shad Kahn. Khan told ‘The Street’, he expected the All-Pro cornerback to suit up against the Saints.

Ramsey had already missed the previous two weeks due to a back injury, which the star cornerback spoke about on Nate Burleson’s 17 Weeks podcast. Ramsey had not practiced with the team until last week and was seen during the portion of practice open to the media as simply going through the motions in individual drills.

If the Jaguars were going to trade Ramsey, it was always going to be for a steep price. The Jaguars had no intention of sending Ramsey off for — frankly — disrespectful offers or compensation. The team held tight until Tuesday when the Los Angeles Rams offered compensation the team simply could not refuse.

Earlier in the day, the Rams (3-3) traded up-and-down cornerback Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens (4-2) for a 2020 fifth-round pick and linebacker Kenny Young. This sparked speculation of Ramsey eventually being the next cornerback to be traded, and at 7:43 P.M. it was reported by multiple outlets that Ramsey would indeed be traded to the Los Angeles Rams.

Ramsey had always been an outspoken, potentially problematic football player during his time in the NFL, however, after a conflict between himself and head coach Doug Marrone, combined by a reported conflict between himself and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin, the dam was finally broken.

After three years at performing as arguably a top-three defensive player in the NFL, the relationship was completely severed. This would be the end of a consistent toxic-relationship between Ramsey and the Jaguars, which is well documented here by ESPN’s Michael DiRocco.

Life After Jalen Ramsey

So where do the Jaguars go from here?

After acquiring two first-round picks — one in each of the next two drafts — and a 2021 fourth-round pick, the Jaguars have plenty of ammunition to supplant their already talented roster with an influx of young, and talented players over the next two seasons.

The core of the Jaguars roster stems from young (25 years or younger), talented players at nearly all levels of football both offensively and defensively. Although the team is currently sitting at 2-4, there is plenty to be optimistic about moving forward.

Starting with defensive ends Yannick Ngakoue (24 years old) and Josh Allen (21), the Jaguars have a couple of core pieces on the defensive side of the ball which could potentially make up for the loss of a star cornerback. Although there is no replacing a generational talent such as Ramsey, having pass rushers that will impact the quarterback will always take precedence.

Jaguars’ wide receivers DJ Chark Jr. (23) and Dede Westbrook (25), along with running back Leonard Fournette (24), and linebacker Myles Jack (24) have already shown how talented they are or could be in the very near future. These players represent the potential “star” level core players of the team as it stands right now.

Players such as offensive tackles Cam Robinson (24) and Jawaan Taylor (21), defensive end Dawuane Smoot (24), safety Ronnie Harrison (22), and potentially right guard Will Richardson (23) all-round out a young group of players who will impact the team’s decision making over the next couple of years at least. While these players have not performed at the level the aforementioned group has, they have the potential to become something special in Jacksonville.

There are also several young, and talented players such as linebacker Quincy Williams (23), and the remainder of the Jaguars past couple of draft classes who have not proven themselves on the field, but have the potential to do so in the next couple of years.

More recently, sixth-round quarterback Garnder Minshew has proven to — at the very least — be a capable replacement-level starter for the team over the course of the season while veteran quarterback Nick Foles recovers from a broken collarbone. It remains to be seen whether or not Minshew will evolve into the team’s franchise quarterback, but his play — during the first five games of the season — illustrates the potential.

The Jaguars have posted a 1-2 record without Ramsey, and while he absolutely would help the team right now, and moving forward, the team’s issues have not been due to his absence. The Jaguars lost to the Saints last week 6-13 after a complete offensive failure due to the Saints’ ferocious defensive gameplan. They lost to the Panthers a week prior due much more to the Jaguars’ defensive front seven players than secondary after Chrisitan McCaffrey ran for 185 yards.

Replacing Ramsey at the moment is second-year cornerback Tre Herndon. According to Pro Football Focus, Herndon has allowed 15 receptions for 232 yards and two touchdowns. However, in the last two games, the young corner has allowed only six receptions for 72 yards and zero touchdowns.

The Jaguars’ season has not ended simply because Ramsey is no longer on the team. There is still hope for a great finish — especially with their talent on both sides of the ball –, and it will start this Sunday when the Jaguars travel to Cincinnati to face the 0-6 Bengals.

Bright Future Ahead

Along with the players mentioned above, the Jaguars now have enough ammunition to make waves during the next two draft classes. Although they have plenty of pieces to move forward, there are still voids on the team which need to be filled — soon.

There is no need to take a deep dive into the next NFL draft, however considering the compensation the Jaguars were awarded by trading Ramsey, there is enough reason to at least take a peak. With the Rams currently sitting at a 3-3 record, their first-round pick from this season would be around 15th overall. This is due to change, but with their struggles on offense, and a tough schedule, it should bode well for the home team.
During the next draft, the Jaguars will almost assuredly take a look at the cornerback position, one name which will stand out is Florida star cornerback C.J. Henderson. Henderson is thought of by most draft pundits to be a top-five cornerback in this class.

While no one can reasonably replace Ramsey — especially not right away –, having star power at all levels of the defense is still a priority.

Draft flexibility is a must in today’s NFL, and the more darts you have to shoot at the board, the better. The Jaguars will enter the next two seasons with 18 total draft selections (nine in each year), which includes two first-round picks in 2020, two in 2021 and extra picks along the way in the later rounds.

Considering the Jaguars’ situation at quarterback, the team has done a fantastic job of balancing their movement in the draft with the movement of the team. By 2021, the Jaguars will know whether or not Minshew is the answer, and will have a reasonable opportunity to move on from a would-be 32-year-old quarterback in Foles.

With two first-round picks in 2021, the Jaguars can maneuver their way up the draft to select a quarterback if need be.

While the immediate future may look grim, ultimately, trading Ramsey could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. The Jaguars will almost assuredly find out over the next several weeks as their season is on the line heading into their week nine bye.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

REPORT: Jaguars trade CB Jalen Ramsey to Los Angeles Rams

Demetrius Harvey

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Sep 19, 2019; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey (20) and corner back coach Tim Walton are all smiles after a win over Tennessee Titans at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

After weeks of speculation and intrigue, the Jaguars have finally solved the long-standing feud with cornerback Jalen Ramsey

The Jaguars have officially traded cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams. The compensation? Two first-round picks (2020,2021) and a fourth-round pick (2021). After a tumultuous few weeks, the long-awaited trade has finally happened.

Many speculated the Jaguars may hold onto the star cornerback beyond this season to maximize their potential compensation, but it only took one desperate team willing to part away with what the Jaguars felt he was worth to ultimately get the deal done.

The Jaguars cornerback had not participated with the team in several weeks due to an on-going back injury. Ramsey became malcontent following a reported dispute between himself and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin after the Jaguars played the Houston Texans in week two.

After the reported discussion, Ramsey requested a trade via his agent and would go on to play one more game for the Jaguars.

“Some disrespectful things were said on their (Jacksonville Jaguars) end that made me definitely walk out and call my agent. As soon as I walked out,” Ramsey said on the 17 weeks podcast shortly before the team’s week three matchup against the Tennessee Titans. “I told him, ‘its time. my time is up here in Jacksonville.’ I said, ‘I wanna ask for a trade’.” The Pro Bowl corner says he was truly at peace when he made the decision. “I was completely calm.”

Now, a little over a month later, the Jaguars have made good on his request and have ended their toxic relationship with the star cornerback by sending him to Los Angeles.

Drafted fifth overall in 2016, Ramsey accounted for 182 total tackles, 45 passes defended and nine interceptions. Ramsey joins former 2014 and 2015 first-round picks Blake Bortles and Dante Fowler Jr., in LA.

The Jaguars have long-wanted at least two first-round picks for the star corner, and get their wish. Ramsey met with Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan last week and had a “heart-to-heart” which ended with Khan believing the All-Pro player would be suiting up last weekend.

The Jaguars later confirmed the trade and now have 18 picks, including four first-round selections, over the next two drafts. The Jaguars will now have plenty of ammo to surround their extremely talented young core of players in Jawan Taylor, Ronnie Harrison, Myles Jack, Yannick Ngakoue, Josh Allen, DJ Chark Jr., and potentially quarterback Gardner Minshew moving forward.

In the meantime, the Jaguars will likely continue with second-year cornerback Tre Herndon as they have for the past three weeks. Herndon has had an up-and-down three starts with the Jaguars, however, he has shown potential to — at the very least — be a capable starter opposite of A.J. Bouye.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars: Three crucial adjustments needed before bye week

Brandon Carroll

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Oct 13, 2019; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette (27) runs the ball against New Orleans Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata (93) during the fourth quarter at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

An up-and-down start to the season for the Jaguars seems to be on a downward slope as Jacksonville loses another tough matchup for after struggling offensively in Sunday’s game against the Saints.

Following that loss, the Jaguars continue to be sucked into the abyss that is being below .500 at this point in the season.

With a 2-4 record, many believe that it is just the beginning of another disappointing season that will cause turmoil within the supporters of the team and players.

That is far from the case according to defensive end Calais Campbell. In a post-game interview following the Jaguars fourth loss of the season Campbell says “You’ll be foolish to doubt the heart of this team, this team has a lot of heart. We’re gonna keep it together…and we’re gonna find a way to be a really good team this year.”

A promising statement from a leader of the Jaguars. But — as the saying goes –, actions speak louder than words.

The Jaguars will start a stretch of games that are rather favorable for them to get back on track going into the bye week and could put them in a position to make a late-season playoff run.

As the Jaguars gear up to take on the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, and Houston Texans over the next three weeks, there are three essential adjustments to make in each of those games to go into the bye week with a winning record.

Three crucial adjustments for the Jaguars to make before the bye week: 

1.) Limit penalties

With only two penalties accepted in week six, the Jaguars must continue to limit unnecessary penalties that shoot themselves in the foot. As we have learned thus far in the season, the Jaguars are not a good enough team to overcome an abundance of penalties.

With questions surrounding multiple parts of the team —including the linebacker and offensive line positions— the Jaguars do not have the luxury that some teams around the NFL do to overcome penalties with talent.

To this point, the Jaguars rank in the bottom half of the league with nearly 63 penalty yards averaged per game. With football being a game of inches, it is essential to execute cleanly to be successful in the NFL.

In the fourth quarter against the Saints, we saw a first-down run of 14 yards by Leonard Fournette subsequently negated due to a hold that backed the Jaguars up eight yards into a 1st and 18 on the Jaguars 44 instead of a first down in plus territory.

Just three plays later, Jacksonville was stopped on fourth-and-short and set up the Saints with the opportunity to close out the game.

The inability to get out of their own way all season has created an inability to win in close games. If the Jaguars can somehow find a way to limit the number of penalty flags thrown, they have a much better chance to “win games now” as Myles Jack would say.

2.) Find consistency on the offensive line. 

The Jaguars have struggled all year on the offensive line. The plugging and playing of multiple different players and the continuous rotation at the guard right guard position have resulted in lackluster develop for the group.

They have been unable to establish a consistent push and protection and it has ultimately resulted in tallies in the loss column.

While every game has not been 100% on the offensive line, the struggling front five have not done much to ensure victory for the Jaguars.

The lack of holes being opened in the run game paired with the collapsing of the pocket when their quarterback drops back to pass will plague any team’s ability to win games.

For most of the year, the Jaguars have been able to hide the fact that their offensive line is subpar — for the most part — due to Gardner Minshew’s uncanny ability to escape the pocket and make plays on the run.

But, in week six against the Saints, the offensive line was exposed for the weakness that it really is. The Saints brought pressure on Minshew but confined him to the pocket and didn’t allow him to make the plays he had been making throughout the majority of the young season.

A formula that many teams will begin to use as the season goes on. A containment pass rush to keep the star rookie quarterback in the pocket is going to be the trend as the well-oiled machine that had been running for the Jaguars throughout the first few weeks was shut down by Cam Jordan and company.

This new way to limit Minshew’s playmaking ability will be a call to action for the lackluster offensive line. One of the only teams in the league that continuously rotates players at the right guard position, with Will Richardson and A.J. Cann, will need to solidify that spot in order to gain chemistry within the offensive line.

Regardless of who is put in that spot permanently, there is very little chance it results in worse production that is currently being put out.

3.) Have the offense and defense show up in the same game. 

Both sides of the ball have failed to show up for the Jaguars in five out of their first six games of the season. The number of times one side of the ball has shown up, but not the other, this season is problematic.

So far this season, the Jaguars have been unable for the offense and defense to put together consecutive games of competent play at the same time.

In weeks two, three, and six, the Jaguars’ defense decided it was their time to play. Allowing a maximum of thirteen points in those games. They went 1-2 over that stretch.

On the other hand, in weeks one, three, four, and five, the Jaguars’ offense showed up and produced yardage in a big way. They were able to go 2-2 in those games.

The team is on the cusp of winning close matchups, three of their four losses have come by seven points or less. If the Jaguars can figure out how to get both sides of the ball to play effectively down the stretch of the season at the same time, they can definitely find a way to come out victorious.

Jacksonville looks to take on the rest of the season with an iron fist. They have the ability to control their own destiny but it will be up to them whether they want to squander the opportunity at hand, or seize the moment and take the rest of the NFL by surprise.

Climbing the ladder to a playoff appearance will be no easy feat, especially as a 2-4 team. But if Jacksonville is able to execute to the best of its abilities and make the three crucial adjustments needed for success, the weak AFC conference could feature a Jaguars team within its playoff.

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