by Cole Pepper
The Jaguars players have a day off from training camp today, so we take this opportunity to size up the progress of the new Jaguars defense.
For starters, the Jaguars defense is loaded with new faces. Among the players expected to start defensive tackles Roy Miller and Sen’Derrick Marks, linebacker Geno Hayes, safety Jonathan Cyprien and cornerbacks Dwayne Gratz and Alan Ball are all new additions this off-season. Add to that Jason Babin, who figures to start at the LEO position (the pass rushing right defensive end) once healthy and recall that Babin didn’t join the Jaguars until last November. That means that eight of the eleven starters will be guys who weren’t in camp with the Jaguars last year.
The only holdovers are defensive end Tyson Alualu, who is moving from defensive tackle and linebackers Paul Posluszny and Russell Allen.
Because they haven’t had a fully padded practice, we have to keep the run defense in context, but it appears that Miller, Marks and some of the other big bodies like 364 pound TJ Barnes and 315 pound Kyle Love that general manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley are intent on being large and stout upfront. Miller has especially looked the part in camp so far.
The pass rush is another story. It’s tough to gauge how good the pass rush will be when you can’t hit the quarterback, but we have seen a number of coverage sacks in team drill. However, with Babin limited, there has been a lack of one-on-one wins in the pass rush category. That’s good news for the Jaguars offensive tackles, bad news for the defense.
Veteran defensive end Jeremy Mincey appears to be the best known veteran who is fighting for a spot on the roster. As I detailed before camp, Mincey doesn’t seem to fit in any of the starting positions on the defensive line in defensive coordinator Bob Babich’s system. He’ll need to prove that he can be a difference maker–if even on third down–to make the team.
At linebacker, Geno Hayes was singled out by Gus Bradley on Monday for his good start to camp. Posluszny and Allen are adjusting to a new style of linebacker play, but so far, things have gone relatively smoothly on that front.
When you watch the Jaguars defense, the most obvious change is with the defensive backs. Unlike past years under former defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, the Jaguars are playing a lot of press coverage. Ball has been very good, despite drawing coverage on Cecil Shorts most of the time. We’ve seen that Gratz, a rookie 3rd round pick from Connecticut, has the physical tools. He has gotten lost a couple of time, but that’s to be expected. So far, Marcus Trufant hasn’t made many big plays, but the veterans knowledge of this system (he ran it in Seattle when Bradley was the defensive coordinator) should be invaluable.
It will be very telling to see if the Jaguars first team can generate a pass rush in live situations during the preseason games. To me, that’s the number one question facing this defense this preseason.