American Football

Roundup: What’s the Jaguars’ weakest roster unit going into 2023?

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Jacksonville Jaguars Rookie Mini Camp
Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Jacksonville could use more depth at three specific positions

Here’s a national media roundup on the Jaguars’ largest remaining roster hole following the draft.

Just about every source pointed to Jacksonville’s pass rush and/or coverage. The team has two commendable starters at cornerback and edge but… not much else to brag about at either position. Offensive line is also decent sleeper pick considering the youth at tackle behind suspended starter Cam Robinson.

From Matt Verderame of Sports Illustrated:

The Jaguars had one of the more perplexing drafts, leaving them still with many needs. Jacksonville’s offense should be one of the best in 2023, but the defense has questions galore. For starters, who is the shutdown corner of the group? The Jaguars are putting a ton of faith in the trio of Tre Herndon, Tyson Campbell and Darious Williams. The edge rush is also a potential issue, with Josh Allen and little else in the way of a threat. Jacksonville should absolutely consider upgrades on the open market such as veteran pass-rushers Frank Clark, Houston and Pierre-Paul, among others.

From Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders/ESPN:

The Jaguars have a strong starting tandem of cornerbacks with Tyson Campbell and Darious Williams. Campbell in particular had a breakout 2022 season, finishing fourth in coverage success rate among qualifying cornerbacks, according to Sports Info Solutions charting. The problem is that the modern NFL requires three or four cornerbacks most of the time, and the Jaguars have weaknesses there.

Veteran Tre Herndon was benched midway through the 2021 season. He came back to play more in 2022 but allowed 11.3 yards per target in coverage. Behind them are Chris Claybrooks and Tevaughn Campbell, who combined to play just 78 defensive snaps last season, and then sixth-round rookies Christian Braswell and Erick Hallett II. A veteran cornerback such as Ronald Darby, Eli Apple or Anthony Brown would be a strong addition for the Jaguars as they try to repeat in the AFC South.

From Dallas Robinson of Pro Football Network:

The Jaguars surprisingly waited until the fifth round to draft a cornerback, potentially signaling they’re content with their Tyson Campbell-Tre Herndon-Darious Williams trifecta. I have questions about Herndon playing full-time on the outside, so an experienced veteran like Eli Apple might fit as depth options.

From Jeff Howe of The Athletic:

The Jaguars had the seventh-fewest sacks in the league last season, and their inability to get after an ailing Patrick Mahomes led to their playoff demise in Kansas City. And yet, the Jags didn’t take a pass rusher until Tyler Lacy in the fourth round — Dane Brugler’s 27th-ranked edge rusher who totaled 11 1/2 sacks over the last four seasons. They improved the secondary, added depth at the skill positions and have a premier quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, but it’s going to be tough to overtake the AFC’s best teams if they can’t get after those QBs.

From Marc Sessler of NFL.com:

The warp-speed growth of Trevor Lawrence makes it easy to forget how much help is needed on defense. Jacksonville’s Josh Allen-led front notched the seventh-fewest sacks in 2022, but it barely addressed the need beyond snagging fourth-round edge Tyler Lacy out of Oklahoma State. Why not make a run at free agent Frank Clark? And yes, you could make a case for an equal need at cornerback following the release of Shaquill Griffin.

From Josh Edwards of CBS Sports:

Jacksonville has made ample investment into the cornerback position in recent years. The Jaguars signed free agents Darious Williams and Shaq Griffin, in addition to spending a first-round selection on C.J. Henderson and a second-round selection on Tyson Campbell, who remains a building block at the position moving forward. The Jaguars need more from that group, especially after releasing Griffin. They took three late-round flyers on the position but time will tell how those pan out.

From Dalton Wasserman and Jim Wyman of PFF:

The Jaguars’ offensive line is already a weak unit, as only Brandon Scherff has a history of success in the NFL, and they are losing starting left tackle Cam Robinson for an unknown number of games as of this writing due to suspension. Trevor Lawrence earned just a 29.5 passing grade under pressure in 2022, so protecting him is a must if the team hopes to build on a breakout year.

From Oliver Connolly of The Read Optional:

I am maintaining my oceanfront property on Mike Caldwell Island. If you’re selling, call my broker. The Jaguars DC did some wackadoo things last season. No team was impressive and creative in how it moved its front last season. The Jags have gathered a collection of malleable pieces along the defensive front. With another offseason of work, the jigsaw should come together. There were flashes last season that the roots of something pretty special are there with that group.

It’s not the same on the back end. As with his front, Caldwell embraced the trend of movement and disguise in his secondary. Caldwell gets to every coverage from every conceivable pre-snap look; there’s some Chiefs-Spags stuff going on in Jacksonville.

That stuff can both cover up for talent holes and help elevate good talent. But there remain concerns with this team in pure man-to-man coverage. Remove the disguises. Remove the movement. Play straight-up, and what do you have?

Tyson Cambell was a revelation as a press-and-trail corner last season. Darious Williams is a steady presence in man-coverage; he’s a punch-then-chase sort of corner who’s happy to play inside or outside. Both players maxed out their potential last season. Can that sustain into a second season? If not, what are the alternatives?

Tre Hendon is a slot-only corner who isn’t a viable option out wide — that’s a huge issue when you want to move and rotate and get more creative in coverage as offenses move and adjust pre-snap.

Behind that starting trio, there’s a dearth of quality. Tevaughn Campbell and Chris Claybrooks would be the next players up. Gulp.

Connolly may not write for a major outlet, but he’s probably the best film analyst of the group so I wanted to make sure his Caldwell shoutout was seen.

Outside of cornerback and edge rusher, which position groups do you think the team still needs to upgrade, Jaguars fans?

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