The Jacksonville Jaguars defense hasn’t been one that’s been too spectacular within recent memory. The days of John Henderson, Marcus Stroud and Mike Peterson are long gone and the Jaguars have been trying to find their predecessors over the past five years or so. With one of the largest salary caps in football, the Jaguars have definitely addressed this need in the past free agency period and fans have a lot to be excited about.
The Jags finished the 2013-14 season with just 31 sacks…ranking as one of the lowest teams in the NFL. However, GM Dave Caldwell, showed he was not afraid to be active in a very competitive defensive line market, competing with teams such as; Seattle, Chicago and Green Bay for some of the best talent in the league.
Fortunately for Jacksonville, Gus Bradley’s strong pull from his days in Seattle allowed for the Jags to bring in some of the best defensive linemen. Led by Red Bryant, free agency brought in guys like Chris Clemons, Ziggy Hood and even Jason Babin close behind him.
The Jaguars franchise and fan base can expect a lot out of this group in the coming seasons.
Bryant is a very good run stuffer off the edge, and weighing in at nearly 330 lbs, he is built like a defensive tackle but his speed proves him to be slightly more effective off the edge. While he doesn’t generate a lot of sacks, he definitely causes havoc on one side of the line, allowing for more possible opportunities from the other side.
Speaking of the other side, Clemons and Babin will look forward to playing along side a new and improved line. While Babin hasn’t been the most productive pass rusher the past few years, fans should expect that to change sooner than later. And Clemons, who is just a bit over 30, is coming off his first season after tearing his ACL in the 2012 season. These players should share time and have some nice games over the next few years.
Hood is looking for a fresh start and he hopes Jacksonville can be that place to do so. A former first round pick, he never really blossomed in his first few years, but at a young age and with so much potential if Jacksonville can fit him in in the right schemes, he can be useful even as a situational player.
So what does all this mean for the returning players on the defensive line for the Jaguars?
While it looks like Tyson Alualu and Andre Branch may lose some playing time with all these veterans players, fans can look for this to benefit the two in the long run. Both players are sub-30 in age and can use this time with successful veteran ends to learn and look forward to the future. While the signings of Bryant and Clemons looked like a foreshadowing to the end of Alualu’s career with the Jags, a freshly transitioned defensive tackle to defensive end, the Jaguars are not done working with him and bringing in these new guys will only help his maturity and skill level.
Hood will play alongside Roy Miller and Sen‘derrick Marks and hopefully learn from them what Branch and Alualu will learn from Clemons and Bryant. These three players will all get playing time and we can presume that Miller and Marks will carry the bulk of the snaps but that’s not to say Hood, when present, won’t have an impact on the game. He is going to be able to learn a lot and with a defensive minded coach like Gus Bradley, he’s someone who looks forward to the opportunity to mold this young player.
Jaguar fans should not expect the team to lead the league in sacks next year, plain and simple. That’s not to say that fans shouldn’t expect a spike in sacks however.
Beyond the sack category, the Jaguars should be equally as concerned with generating QB hurries and knockdowns. By doing this, the Jags can look to create more opportunities for the mid three and secondary to possibly have a few more turnovers throughout the next few seasons.
Follow Justin on Twitter @Scylla904.