It’s easy to forget that all throughout that mess of a 3-13 season that they suffered through last year, the Jaguars actually played some pretty good defense.
The Jags finished the year ranked sixth overall in the league in total defense (321.7 yards per game), including fifth against the pass (215.2 YPG), and they’ve only gotten better since.
The hope now is that the addition of defensive end Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye and safety Barry Church will result in a big jump in performance and ESPN NFL writer Mike Clay is among those who believes it will.
Clay was part of a recent roundtable discussion in which he and fellow ESPN NFL writers and analysts, Matt Bowen, Mike Sando, Dan Graziani and Field Yates discussed a variety of topics, including which defense is built to sustain success for the next five years.
Bowen (Falcons), Sando (Falcons), Graziano (Giants) and Yates (Seahawks) didn’t agree with him, but Clay said he believes the Jaguars are the team that’s most destined to dominate over the long haul.
“Stop laughing, and hear me out,’’ Clay said. “Yannick Ngakoue, Dante Fowler Jr., Myles Jack and Jalem Ramsey have yet to turn 23 years old, and Malik Jackson, Telvin Smith, A.J. Bouye and Tashaun Gipson are under 28.
“Add a few years of Calais Campbell, Barry Church and Paul Posluszny, and this is a unit primed to break out in 2017 and built to sustain success over multiple seasons.’’
Clay makes a good argument here and it’s one the Jaguars surely agree with. This is a mostly young and still developing group on defense and there’s little reason to believe they won’t continue to get better.
And it’s clear where they need to get better. The Jaguars were toughest when defending the pass last year, but they only intercepted seven passes while forcing just 13 takeaways, the least in the league.
It’s common knowledge that the team that wins the turnover battle usually wins the game, and the fact the Jaguars finished the 2016 season with a minus-16 turnover ratio proves that out.
Granted, that wasn’t all on the defense. The Jaguars offense, led by quarterback Blake Bortles and his 29 giveaways, regularly put the defense in tough situations last year.
But that just further displays how good the Jags really were on defense. And now that coordinator Todd Wash has more talent to work with this unit could prove to be one of the big surprises of the 2017 season. And beyond.