Training Camp Tour: Jaguars’ defensive line loaded with potential

Senior Analyst Mike Renner reports form Jaguars practice outside of EverBank Field.

| 2 months ago
Jaguars DT Malik Jackson

(Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

Training Camp Tour: Jaguars’ defensive line loaded with potential

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars took the practice field Monday morning in the shadow of EverBank Field with 100 or so invited guests. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were in town for a joint practice, which meant a much more competitive atmosphere than normal drills. The pads were on, and we saw a good deal of full-team snaps. 11-on-11s are obviously more difficult to tell who is standing out, but at the same time, provide a better idea of what teams are trying to do. The Jaguars have new starters spread up and down the roster; let’s dive into the biggest takeaways of the day.

[More: Miss a moment of training camp? Catch up on the entire tour here.]

No scarcity of talent along the defensive line

Standing behind the defensive line on the sidelines Wednesday and seeing all the names on the backs of the jerseys, one thought trumped all others: How are they all going to get snaps? Jared Odrick, Malik Jackson, Dante Fowler, Jr., Ryan Davis (who is also working at LB), Mike Bennett, Sheldon Day, Yannick Ngakoue, and Tyrone Holmes all have reason to see some snaps this season. There are two big issues with that list of names, though: 1.) None of them are really nose tackles, and 2.) outside of Odrick, Jackson, and Davis (as a pass-rusher), they really don’t know what they are going to get out of the other guys. It’s a preferable position to be in, though, compared to previous years, as it’s unlikely that all those unknowns flop.

Jalen Ramsey out of the starting lineup—for now

It’s a popular coaching tactic to not hand a high draft pick a starting position right away, but come Week 1 of the regular season, I don’t see anyway that Jacksonville’s fifth-overall pick is relegated to nickel and dime duty only. Prince Amukamara and Davon House are accomplished cornerbacks in their own right, and Jacksonville should feel much better about them starting than any duo in a long time. Neither, though, have the upside that Jalen Ramsey has, and a promotion for the rookie feels inevitable. It will be interesting to see how often the Jaguars end up going into nickel and dime, though, this year, as the addition of Myles Jack—who many consider talented enough in coverage to play safety—alongside Telvin Smith gives them a freakishly-athletic linebacking duo that can match up with tight ends and slot receivers alike.

Blake Bortles needs to make another jump

I’m definitely guilty of judging Blake Bortles a tad too soon after a dreadful rookie season. What I overlooked was just how big of a leap it was for him to go from UCF to the NFL in less than a year. In year two, though, Bortles finally got acclimated to the speed of the game and made as drastic of an improvement over year one as we’ve seen in our 10 years of quarterback grading. Now he’ll need to continue that trajectory if the Jags’ offense is to become a Super Bowl-worthy unit. And from what I saw in my admittedly small sample size Wednesday, the results were encouraging. Bortles was on target every rep of the receiver vs. DB one-on-one drills, even burning extremely tight coverage on more than one occasion. The even better news is that Bortles doesn’t have to be perfect, given the loaded receiving corps the Jaguars have assembled.

Luke Joeckel still taking reps at LT

Watching Luke Joeckel up close, I can see why he keeps getting chances from the Jaguars staff. He looks the part. Of all the lineman taking pass sets in the one-on-ones, Joeckel’s pass set looked easily the smoothest, and his feet the most nimble. In that drill, he won three of his four reps, and there is still is a chance this is the year Joeckel puts it all together. In fact, against the Jets in the team’s first preseason outing, Joeckel earned the highest grade of any Jaguars lineman.

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • Malachi

    seems odd to not mention sen’derrick marks in the d-line section..

    • Samuel Myers

      Not to mention Roy Miller, a known-quantity and the guaranteed starter at NT. He’s a strong run defender and the team – and fans – know exactly what he’s bringing to the table.

  • crosseyedlemon

    Being assigned to cover a joint practice between the Jags and Bucs must be a form of punishment so I’m left wondering what Mike did wrong to deserve this. 6 wins was good enough to secure Florida bragging rights last season and things may get even uglier this year.

    • Samuel Myers

      Both teams have lots of young talent, including promising young players at the most important position, QB. And both have budding superstar receivers. Both made major investments on defense in the draft and in FA. Tampa is in a potentially tough division, but AFC South is up for grabs.

      • Malachi

        both teams look destined for at least 8 wins, maybe more

        • crosseyedlemon

          With a new head coach I see the Bucs winning maybe 5 games and now that the Jags have finally figured out how to beat the Colts they could win 6 maybe 7.

          • Nelson Cobb

            GTFO!! Jags have a ton of promise. They will have one of the 10 best offenses in the NFL this year, no question. They were top 10 passing last year, and with Yeldon going into year 2, adding Ivory, they’ll improve with the run. Their defense was a problem, but the run D improved majorly late. Adding Jackson, Gipson, Amukamara, Ramsey and Jack, plus getting the #3 pick from last year on the field, there is no doubt their defense is set to improve, especially their pass rush with Fowler and Jackson. Jacksonville has one of the most promising futures in the league right now, with a young talented offense and defense.