Jaguars Hope Pass Rush Develops

DSCN0146
Jason Babin (58) figures to be the Jaguars best pass rushers. Will he have more help in the sack department? (photo by Cole Pepper)

by Cole Pepper
August 5, 2013

Want some motivation to improve? Last year, Texans defensive star J.J. Watt had more sacks than the Jaguars did as a team.

Needless to say, improving the pass rush is a major focus of Gus Bradley and his staff. In the first week and a half of the pre-season, the pass rush was anything but impressive. But with Jason Babin getting healthy, the rush suddenly appeared Saturday night at the Jaguars scrimmage. The Jaguars hope that is just the beginning.

“Coach preaches to us that it’s a process and to trust the process,” Babin said. “Each step is going to come and the pieces are going to fall into place.”

The Jaguars defensive scheme this year will feature a line with three big guys and a speed rusher, particularly on early downs. This has forced Tyson Alualu from defensive tackle to defensive end in early down situations.

“As a bigger defensive end, we want to set the edge, stop the run, do my job out there,” Alualu said. “There’s a lot of good talent, people who can rush the passer. There are going to be times that I’m going to have to rush from the outside. Being a bigger body, it’s a lot of power rushes, trying to collapse the pocket.”

There could be a scenario where Alualu moves inside to provide some rush on 3rd down. But that’s no guarantee since the Jaguars appear to be as deep on the defensive line as they have been in years. The free agent signings of Sen’Derrick Marks (Titans), Roy Miller (Buccaneers), Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick (Patriots) have created a stockpile of big bodies. Add to that, the biggest body on the Jaguars roster, 364 pound rookie T.J. Barnes and the Jaguars should stop the run better this year. That leads us back to Alualu and his role.

“We gotta find guys who can win one-on-ones. We need more rush,” said defensive line coach Todd Wash. “We see some good change of direction for a guy [Alualu] that’s 305 pounds. Our package is built with one big end to the tight end side. We’re not asking him to be a big sack guy. We’re asking him to stop the run and condense the pocket.”

The Jaguars defensive line is full of potential and “what ifs” and if some of those questions can be answered positively, things could be dramatically different in Jacksonville this season.

“We feel that the sky is the limit for us,” Babin said. “I think everyone is excited to see how its going to work. Hopefully we wreak some havoc.”

Jaguars Off-Season Analysis: Defensive Ends

Bob Mack/Times-Union
Bob Mack/Times-Union

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.

DE Depth

* – rookie     # – listed on roster as DE, likley to play DT