PFF ranks Jags’ defense in the NFL’s lowest tier

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The Jacksonville Jaguars knew heading into this offseason that they needed to do quite a bit to address a defense that wasn’t particularly effective in any aspect of the game last season. The team did so by adding many immediate impact free agents, including cornerback Shaquill Griffin and safety Rayshawn Jenkins.

The unit should certainly be improved in 2021, and it’s a lot more talented than it was a year ago. But Pro Football Focus is still not impressed. On its rankings of the NFL defenses into different tiers, the Jags landed in Tier 5 (the lowest tier). Here’s the rundown.

Jacksonville is a defense with a lot of talent on paper, but how close they come to realizing that potential will determine how good this defense will be. C.J. Henderson flashed big potential as a rookie, racking up six pass breakups over the season, but struggled as the season wore on and was beaten for a passer rating of 111.7 overall. Shaquill Griffin has elite play on his resume but isn’t coming off his best year. The team also needs one of their former 1st-round pass-rushers to take a big step forward this year and supply the team with a consistent volume of pressure. Neither Josh Allen nor K’Lavon Chaisson has yet been that guy in the NFL.

The concerns presented here are certainly valid. Henderson has a lot to prove heading into 2021 coming off an injury-limited rookie year, though he was a standout in the preseason opener against Cleveland. Griffin is hoping for a bounce-back year after his contract season in 2020 was a bit disappointing.

Allen and Chaisson also need to be much better this season, but there’s certainly reason to be hopeful on that front. Under new defensive coordinator Joe Cullen, the team should line up in a 3-4 base more often than it has in the past, which should suit both edge rushers, who played in similar schemes in college.

The defense remains a concern heading into 2021, and the starters struggling against the Browns’ backup quarterback in Case Keenum on Saturday wasn’t exactly reassuring, but coach Urban Meyer will hope that the investment on that side of the ball this offseason pays off.