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What Will D.J. Hayden Bring to the Jaguars?

Filip Prus

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Sep 18, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Detroit Lions cornerback DJ Hayden (31) breaks up a pass intended for New York Giants wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) in the second half during a NFL football game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaguars are making a change at the nickel corner position for the 2018 season, extending a 3-year, $19 million deal with $9.5 million in guarantees to former Raiders and Lions CB D.J. Hayden.

Who is D.J. Hayden?

A former first round pick (12th overall) in the 2013 NFL Draft from the University of Houston, Hayden’s professional career nearly ended before it even started.

As a senior, Hayden was injured in a collision with a teammate causing a tear to his inferior vena cava, a crucial large vein responsible for carrying blood from the lower half of the body to the heart.

The injury is often seen in automobile collisions and statistically has a 95% mortality rate.

The 5’11” 190-pound speed demon was clocked at 4.33 on his 40-yard dash at his Pro Day and has found more success each season in the league. In 2017, Hayden signed a 1-year, $3.75 million “prove it” deal to play as a versatile cornerback in Detroit’s 4-3 defense after years playing as a boundary left cornerback in Oakland.

In Detroit, Hayden essentially alternated series with Nevin Lawson on the boundary opposite Darius Slay and featured as a rotational depth player for the Lions. Quandre Diggs was the team’s starter at nickel and earned a 73.5 PFF grade on 790 snaps from the slot.

As a result, the Jaguars are essentially crossing their fingers and hoping that Hayden’s skill set will project favorably as a feature nickel cornerback in their defense.

Behind The Numbers

In 2017, Hayden allowed a career-best 0 TDs and 76.7 passer rating when targeted on 488 snaps, per Pro Football Focus. Hayden allowed 29 receptions on 50 targets (58.0% catch rate) for only 315 yards with 6 pass deflections and 2 fumble recoveries (1 returned for TD).

One negative about Hayden is that from 2015-2017, Hayden led all defensive backs with 13 defensive pass interference penalties on 162 targets for a shocking 8.02% DPI%.

For reference, the next highest on this list is Delvin Breaux with a 5.98% DPI%. But don’t panic, Jaguars fans. Only 2 of these 13 came with the Lions in 2017, and most of these stemmed from Hayden not having safety help over the top in Oakland and having to do what was needed to prevent a big play.

For the Jaguars fans waving goodbye to the nickel blitz due to Hayden’s limited sack numbers; Hayden was only dispatched on a blitz on 2 of 488 snaps, getting home for a half-sack.

In comparison, Aaron Colvin allowed 45 receptions on 62 targets (72.6% catch rate) for 317 yards on 700 snaps, also not allowing a TD in 2017. Colvin’s passer rating against when targeted was 83.9 and he finished the regular season with 1 pass deflection and no interceptions.

I’m not a stat guy, but digest that however you want.

Checking The Tape

Coverage

Because Hayden played mostly on the boundary as a right cornerback for the Lions, I tried to find reps where he would be in the types of coverages that would simulate what he would be doing in the Jaguars scheme as an inside guy.

In this play, Hayden quickly diagnoses the underneath route from the right cornerback position and breaks immediately to shadow the receiver step-for-step.

Hayden can expect a lot of situations where he’ll have to marry mental processing and urgent breaks on drags and slants from an inside alignment.

One term you’ll hear often for nickel corners is mirroring. Mirroring hinges on quick-twitch and sudden change of direction, agility, and lateral control to virtually become a shadow for the WR wherever he goes.

On tape, Hayden possesses these traits in droves, and you have to wonder why a forward-thinking defensive coordinator hasn’t moved him inside sooner.

Hayden lines up as the right cornerback here and shows great fluidity in his press and bail technique. The receiver attempts to freeze Hayden with a slight stutter but Hayden doesn’t bite, running in-phase stride for stride downfield.

In this example, Hayden shows outstanding discipline in zone coverage to keep his eyes on the passer and remain on the hip pocket of the receiver on a curl and go.

Based on the plays I’ve seen, Hayden exhibits better ball skills than what I’ve seen from Colvin and shows good courage at the catch point.

Here, Hayden sinks his hips, plants, then drives back to suffocate the curl route with urgency to make a play and prevent the catch.

When it comes to coverage, this play is probably the best example of how Hayden will be used in the Jaguars defense. The Lions are in a Cover 2 Cloud Zone and Hayden is quick to process the hand off of the WR to his safety and shoot downfield to pick up the tight end in the flat.

Hayden gets there so fast that he surprises the TE with how quickly he lays a lick.

Run Support

As surprised as I am that no team has ever featured Hayden as a featured slot cornerback, Hayden’s ability in run support could be the answer as to why.

Open-field tackling is not necessarily what I would label as a strength of Hayden’s. On tape, he’s shown a tendency to drop his head in 1v1 situations and fail to wrap up.

Here is an example of Hayden deep in off man where he has to corral a runner moving at him with a full head of steam in the open field.

Hayden is a much more reliable tackler when he can attack downfield and have the confidence of knowing he will be the hammer, not the nail. Watch him knife in here on this WR screen and wrap up the receiver short of the first down marker.

These are the type of situations Hayden will be in more often lining up closer to the line of scrimmage.

 Play-Making

One feather that Hayden can put in his hat over Aaron Colvin is making plays that impact the momentum of the game. Hayden has 3 career INTs, and he has also played a hand in his share of fumbles in his career.

Hayden recovered this fumble for a touchdown against a division rival, and had another fumble recovery in 2017. A lack of making impact plays has long been a gripe about Colvin’s game, and I would expect Hayden to at least play a part in more turnovers than Colvin did, because quite simply, it would be impossible not to.

Moving from being an outside to inside corner, something Colvin may be doing the opposite of in going to Houston, should translate well in regards to turnovers because the defensive back is mentally programmed to attack the ball and not the man.

 Conclusion

Since Hayden has rarely played slot corner in his career, the Jaguars are basically hoping that his skill set projects to what they want their nickel corner to do. Hayden does possess the traits that a successful slot corner relies on to succeed, particularly quick-twitch, mirroring, and urgency in planting and driving downfield.

Hayden is not going to be asked to play out of his scope and will largely be responsible in smothering the flats and underneath routes in the Todd Wash’s scheme. Additionally, Hayden’s experience as a perimeter corner adds to his value as a depth piece in the event Jalen Ramsey or AJ Bouye miss some time due to injuries.

Ultimately, I don’t expect much of a drop off or a difference from what we saw from Aaron Colvin in going to Hayden.

I still wouldn’t have given this deal to a player without proven production at the position I’m signing him to play, but the ability to patch a need and free up flexibility heading into the draft is something this team obviously felt they needed.

Filip is a Locked On Jaguars contributor who focuses on Offseason and Draft topics. Filip is the creator of ScouTurf.com, a collegiate scouting website that encompasses formula NFL roster grading as well as his graphic design portfolio. Filip also works as a Big 12/Conference USA Regional Area Scout for Optimum Scouting and is responsible for compiling OS’ advanced analytics for Wide Receivers. Filip is a University of South Carolina alum, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Sports Management and was a four-year captain for the Gamecocks Club Soccer team as a Goalkeeper. Filip currently lives in Tegucigalpa, Honduras with his wife, Katelyn, and two very good dogs, Balto and Daisy, working as a Special Investigator for the U.S. State Department.

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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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