Flowers, Edmunds signings continue Jaguars’ vital secondary rebuild

One important aspect of Jacksonville’s busy 2024 offseason has been the team’s necessary secondary rebuild.

The Jaguars released two starting defensive backs from last season earlier this year, cornerback Darious Williams and safety Rayshawn Jenkins, and have added six since, including four veteran free-agent signings and two rookie selections in the NFL draft.

The moves weren’t coincidental or business as usual.

They were intentional, a concerted effort by Jacksonville’s front office to revamp the back five of the Jaguars’ defense after the team allowed 239.8 passing yards and 1.59 passing touchdowns per game in 2023, both stats ranking No. 26 in the NFL.

The first addition, cornerback Ronald Darby, is expected to take over for Williams at outside corner, opposite Jacksonville’s 2021 second-round draft pick, Tyson Campbell.

Darby, a nine-season pro, has started 95 games in his career and tallied eight interceptions and 97 passes defended. Per Pro Football Reference, Darby allowed sub-50% completion percentages in coverage in 2022 and 2023, with a career-best 38.9% mark two years ago.

Safety Darnell Savage joined Jacksonville shortly after Darby, after five seasons with his drafted team, Green Bay. There, he accumulated nine interceptions and 32 pass breakups over 72 games and 69 starts.

Although he has been considered a replacement for Jenkins on the backend, next to safety Andre Cisco, Savage has been floated as a candidate to play nickel corner by Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson.

Despite obtaining those veterans, the Jaguars were widely projected to target another outside cornerback early in the 2024 NFL draft, leaving some analysts surprised when they waited until the end of Day 2 to address their secondary whatsoever.

Notably, Campbell is entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2024, while Darby turned 30 years old in January.

They double-dipped at the position, though, taking nickel corner Jarrian Jones late in the third round and then picking outside corner Deantre Prince in the fifth round.

Both were five-year college contributors who participated in the East-West Shrine Bowl all-star game before the draft.

“I think what both Jarrian and Prince probably share as players is confidence in terms of their coverage ability, but also knowing how to use their athletic ability,” Shrine Bowl director of football operations and player personnel, Eric Galko, described Jones and Prince in an interview with Jaguars Wire.

“Some guys are athletic and don’t know how to use it, and they’re just guessing and trying to use their athleticism and kind of recover a lot, not necessarily maximizing it. I think both these guys know where they can get to on the field in coverage.”

The Jaguars have been similarly complimentary of the rookies and believe each can become an impact player in the secondary.

Still, Jacksonville thought it had room to improve. Accordingly, the club signed another pair of veteran defensive backs on Thursday, safety and former first-round pick Terrell Edmunds and cornerback Tre Flowers.

Flowers, in particular, provides a sense of familiarity as the most recent season of his six-year career was under the guidance of current Jacksonville defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen, who occupied the same role for Atlanta in 2023.

He appeared in 17 games with three starts last year, and has compiled four interceptions, 22 pass breakups and five forced fumbles over 90 games since 2018.

Edmunds could fill the safety role initially expected of Savage in 2023, with 79 starts at the position under his belt over six seasons. He’s recorded six interceptions, 28 pass breakups, 7.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss in that span.

Second-year Jaguar Antonio Johnson will vie for a starting safety role, too, after intercepting two passes and defending three as a rookie in 2023.

While it remains to be seen how the batch of new faces will perform as a unit, Jacksonville was wisely aggressive in acquiring defensive backs of varying positional fits, experience levels, and physical and athletic potential this offseason.

The unit added a combined 287 starts via free agency, patching holes in the Jaguars’ previously underwhelming secondary and, as a result, slowing down the pace of the incoming rookies’ development track.

Jones and Prince won’t need to be forced into action at cornerback early in their career — barring injury or if they prove to be equipped for pro ball immediately — with Campbell, Darby, Flowers and perhaps Savage at nickel available to start in 2024.

Story originally appeared on Jaguars Wire