by Cole Pepper
Which position group will have the most impact on the Jaguars success this year. You can always argue that the quarterback fills that bill, but that’s just one guy (at least, one at a time). This year for the Jaguars, the offensive line is key, but I would argue that the position group that may have the greatest impact on success will be the defensive line, and more specifically, the defensive ends.
If he’s healthy (and he’s been tweeting that he will be), Jason Babin will be the linchpin. If Babin can be a double digit sack man, the Jaguars defense has the chance to be among the most improved in the league. With all of the turnover in personnel, pass rush may be the difference between a 4 win season and an 8 win season (assuming improved play at quarterback).
Defensive coordinator Bob Babich will impliment a system very similar to the one run by Gus Bradley in Seattle. That means the LEO position. As Babich explained it to me, the LEO is “a guy who can set the edge against the run and who creates problems for the offensive tackle.”
That means strength, quickness and that sixth sense needed to rush the passer in the NFL. Babin has shown that in his career. Nobody else on the roster has.
The coaches have been complimentary of Andre Branch. The second year defensive end muddled through a disappointing rookie season. He showed flashes in the preseason, but it never translated to the field. He finished the year with just one sack. That won’t be good enough this season.
Jeremy Mincey is the most interesting case on the line. Where do you play him? Where does he fit? He’s not a sudden, explosive pass rusher. He’s an “effort guy.” Mincey doesn’t know himself where he fits in, but is hoping to find a spot on the roster. He is one of the returning veterans who enter camp, theoretically, on the bubble.
Tyson Alualu will move to defensive end. At least, that’s the plan in the short term. Whether due to the knee injury he sustained in his rookie training camp or because he wasn’t utilized correctly, Alualu has never lived up to expectations, to say nothing of his draft position. He’ll move from defensive tackle on early downs, but don’t be surprised to see him moved inside in obvious pass rush situations.
The other player to watch here is Ryan Davis, who spent time in camp and on the Jaguars practice squad last year. The Bethune-Cookman product showed some ability to rush the passer. He could be a dark horse for a roster spot.
* – rookie # – listed on roster as DE, likley to play DT