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Jaguars announce Ryan Nielsen as new defensive coordinator

The Jacksonville Jaguars hired Ryan Nielsen as their defensive coordinator, the team announced Monday.

Nielsen, 44, spent the 2023 season as defensive coordinator and defensive line coach of the Atlanta Falcons. He was among the first candidates for the job, but the Atlanta Falcons initially blocked him from interviewing for the lateral move to Jacksonville.

After interviewing several top head coaching candidates, including Bill Belichick and Jim Harbaugh, the Falcons reversed course and allowed the Jaguars to interview Nielsen.

“We’re excited to welcome Ryan and have him lead our defense moving forward,” Jaguars coach Doug Pederson said in a statement. “Ryan is an outstanding football coach and his defenses with the Falcons and Saints were always fundamentally sound in both their physicality and concepts. He has the rare ability to both teach and connect with his players.

“He builds lasting, two-way relationships predicated on trust. He establishes accountability, first from himself, then the players. What I’ve most admired about Ryan’s defenses — and we saw this in London back in October — was their shared intensity and enthusiasm to get the job done and impact the game.”

In his first and only season in Atlanta, Nielsen helped lead a turnaround of the team’s defense. After finishing No. 27 in the NFL in yards allowed in 2022, the team improved to No. 11 in 2023.

Prior to joining the Falcons, Nielsen spent six seasons with the New Orleans Saints, serving as co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach in his last year with the team. The 2023 season was the Saints’ fourth straight year in the top 10 for points allowed.

The Jaguars finished the 2023 season No. 17 in points allowed and No. 22 in yards allowed. The unit especially struggled late in the season, allowing an average of 29.2 points and 387.6 yards in five losses after the start of December. Mike Caldwell was fired as defensive coordinator along with several assistant coaches shortly after the season ended.

Story originally appeared on Jaguars Wire