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The Jaguars’ once-great defense is rebuilding this offseason

A teardown of the Jaguars’ roster is underway.

NFL: New York Jets at Jacksonville Jaguars Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaguars have a lot of work to do after back-to-back last-place finishes in the AFC South. That downward spiral (along with some NFLPA grievances) cost Tom Coughlin his job as executive vice president. But few other changes were made to the Jacksonville staff. Doug Marrone is returning as head coach and Dave Caldwell retained his job as general manager.

That hasn’t stopped the rebuild from starting, though. The Jaguars entered the offseason as one of two teams over the $200 million salary cap. They got way under the cap by cleaning house on defense.

There’s a lot of work left to do before the Jaguars make a return to competitiveness anytime soon.

Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10), missed playoffs

The jury’s still out on Gardner Minshew as a franchise quarterback. Assuming the team doesn’t try to find a long-term answer at that position, here are three spots that need upgrading instead.

Before free agency:

  1. Defensive tackle: Cutting Dareus was an easy decision, but the Jaguars suffered when he went down with an injury. Jacksonville was 31st in rushing touchdowns allowed and opposing yards per carry. The Jaguars could address the problem by drafting Auburn’s Derrick Brown or South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw in the top 10.
  2. Linebacker: The Jaguars were left with a hole at linebacker when Telvin Smith walked away from football. It got worse when Myles Jack regressed in 2019. There’s a chance Quincy Williams and/or Leon Jacobs could develop into a reliable starter, but finding veteran help in free agency would make sense.
  3. Offensive lineman: Tackles Cam Robinson and Jawann Taylor were early second-round picks in 2017 and 2019, respectively. While it’s too early to give up on either, every spot on the Jaguars’ line could be improved. The draft is the best place to look for blocking help.

What Big Cat Country wants most this offseason: The Jacksonville Jaguars have needs all over their roster, so it’s kind of hard to really pin down what they really want. Since it’s too late for a new front office and coaching staff, the big pain points for the team are now on their defensive line with the loss of Dareus and what looks like Ngakoue and an aging Calais Campbell. After that, their linebacker group is a total mess and they could use help on the offensive line and a functioning tight end. — Alfie Crow

After free agency:

While the Jaguars added Joe Schobert and a few other veterans, the offseason thus far has mostly been about subtractions. Nick Foles, A.J. Bouye, and Calais Campbell were all traded and franchise-tagged pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue could soon follow.

  1. Defensive tackle: Jacksonville replaced Dareus and Campbell with Rodney Gunter and Al Woods. Those stopgap starters will help, but finding long-term fixtures is a must. Brown or Kinlaw in the top 10 look even more likely now than they did at the beginning of March.
  2. Cornerback: Jalen Ramsey is with the Rams and Bouye is now in Denver. With that dynamic duo both gone, Jacksonville found a spot starter in free agency with Rashaan Melvin and they have Tre Herndon, who performed admirably after Ramsey was traded. Still, a serious infusion of defensive back talent is a priority.
  3. Offensive line: Nothing has been done to shore up the offensive line yet. The draft will be a good chance to add big bodies to the roster.

After the draft:

The Jaguars’ main draft priority was shoring up the secondary. They took three cornerbacks: Florida’s CJ Henderson in the first round, Michigan State’s Josiah Scott in the fourth, and Memphis’ Chris Claybrooks in the seventh, as well as Auburn safety Daniel Thomas in the fifth. Henderson should play right away, while Scott is an intriguing player in the slot.

A couple of other players could contribute immediately. On defense, that includes their second first-round pick, LSU edge K’Lavon Chaisson, and third-round defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton from Ohio State. On offense, Colorado’s Laviska Shenault Jr. is a physical, versatile receiver, while the Jaguars can decide if they want St. John’s Ben Bartch at guard or tackle. Minshew will also have another sixth-round quarterback backing him up: Oregon State’s Jake Luton.

Dan Kadar’s draft grade: B+