Jaguars DL among the worst in NFL, PFF says

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It’s no secret that Jacksonville’s defensive line was an especially glaring weakness on a team that finished 1-15 last season. The Jags finished just 30th in run defense and 31st in total sacks, essentially indicating it was exceptionally poor in every facet of the game.

This offseason, the team added a handful of new pieces, including free agents Roy Robertson-Harris and Jihad Ward, as well as Malcom Brown, who was acquired in a trade with the New Orleans Saints. However, none of those players are expected to be transformative, and if the unit is going to take a big leap forward, it will be because of the new system.

Under previous defensive coordinator Todd Wash, the team ran a 4-3 defense that resulted in both edge rushers in Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson playing outside of their natural position. New defensive coordinator Joe Cullen’s system will allow for them to play as edge-rushing, standup outside linebackers, and both thrived in that spot in college.

Schematics could make a big difference on the field this year, but Pro Football Focus isn’t convinced. In its ranking of the NFL’s defensive line units, Jacksonville ranks just 30th, ahead of only the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans.

Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson have the tools to develop into a dynamic edge-rushing duo, but 2021 may still be a year too early for that to take hold. Allen has already proven to be an effective pass rusher across the first two years of his career, earning pass-rushing grades between 70.0 and 75.0 in both 2019 and 2020. Chaisson came on stronger down the stretch last season but recorded just a 9.2% pressure rate overall. With work still left to do for those two and little to get excited about on the interior, this should be one of the lower-graded units in the league again next season.

As previously mentioned, the success of this unit will largely boil down to the strides Allen and Chaisson take. But PFF is right that the interior defensive line remains a weakness, and its improvement will hinge on notables like Robertson-Harris, Brown, DaVon Hamilton, and Doug Costin.

The Jags attempted to mitigate this for the future by using a third-round pick on USC nose tackle Jay Tufele, and though he will likely factor into the rotation this year, his impact could be limited unless he has a very impressive camp.

Ultimately, this is a unit that has some potential. But it also has a lot of development left to do, and even if Allen and Chaisson exceed all expectations, this group may still not rank in the upper half of the league.