There is something that we haven't talked about much as a fan base that needs to be talked about this offseason, and that is the current state of Sen'Derrick Marks and the future of the 3-technique position for the Jacksonville Jaguars, which Marks has excelled at since coming to the team.
In Marks' first season in Jacksonville in 2013, he had the most productive season of his career with 4.5 sacks and constant disruption vs both the run and the pass. In 2014, he played at an elite level and produced 8.5 sacks and, even more, disruption than the year before, somehow. He was the best player on the defense. He was the most important player on the defense. It wasn't particularly close in either aspect.
But in the last game of the season, a meaningless Week 17 game against the Houston Texans, Marks suffered a serious injury when he tore his ACL, which occurred two days after signing an extension through 2017.
Marks would go on to miss the first five games of the 2015 season, and when he did return to the field it was clear that he was still hampered by the injury -- as expected. In Week 10 against the Ravens, Marks suffered another season-ending injury, this time a torn triceps.
The loss of Marks from the Jaguars defense was a crippling one in all facets. They lacked a playmaking defensive lineman on the interior. Their ability to both penetrate vs the run and rush the passer both dipped considerably. Marks was by far their biggest playmaker, and the loss of him and the lack of anyone behind him to pick up the slack was a loss that the 2015 Jaguars could not recover from.
That leads us to this offseason. The Jaguars are unlikely to move on from Marks. They will probably give him one full offseason with a healthy knee to see how he plays in 2016 before they make any decisions on his future. But if 2015 showed us anything, it is that the Jaguars need a contingency plan at 3-technique. They need what they didn't have last season, which is someone who can step in and pick up the slack and be a playmaker.
Tyson Alualu and Michael Bennett both had strong seasons in their specific roles, but they are more suited as rotational options and are not true playmakers.
So what is one option the Jaguars can point to? Who is one playmaker that will be available? Meet Adolphus Washington. Ohio State defensive tackle. Playmaker.
Wearer of many hats
The first thing that stands out about Washington's career at Ohio State was his versatility throughout the years. Nearly every season, his role changed. From strongside defensive end to nose tackle to 3-technique, he was asked to do a lot of different things for the Buckeyes.
A lot of times when we talk about versatility in a prospect, we look at where they are lining up before the snap and make a judgment that they are versatile right then and there. A good example of this is Dion Jordan as a prospect. People saw him line up in the slot as a defensive back a few times and freaked out. Could Dion Jordan actually cover slot receivers? No. He wasn't really versatile.
This is not the case with Washington, though. He excelled every year at Ohio State and remained productive throughout his role changes.
Will he be an every down nose tackle in the NFL? No, but he has shown the ability to play directly over the center on passing downs.
Will he be an every down defensive end in the NFL? No, but he has shown some run stopping ability on the edge that could help him serve in a rotational role behind Odrick if he lands with the Jaguars. A lack of a true backup for Odrick proved to be a big issue in 2015, and Washington could remedy this in Year 1.
Will he be a 3-technique in the NFL? Most likely. This was where he appeared to be the most comfortable, where he was most productive, and what his skill set points to the most. As a Jaguar, Washington could man the 3T spot with Marks in 2016 as well as provide depth behind Odrick and give the Jaguars positional versatility along the Defensive Line on 3rd down.
Playmaker on the interior
What makes Washington so appealing as a 3-technique prospect? The list is too long to really point to one thing. He can be an inconsistent player, but ultimately he flashes a ton of ability against both the run and the pass.
Against the run, Washington has flashes of dominance when everything goes right. He has a size/strength/speed combo that is often unrivaled at the collegiate level.
Here is one of the most impressive plays against the run that Washington made, a play that also shows the tools he has that make him so versatile -- in terms of length and strength.
He is able to read the reach block and recognize that it is a zone run play to the perimeter. He then uses his strength and his length to press the blocker off of him and prevent himself from getting reached. He stays to the run side shoulder of the blocker and is able to make the tackle.
He also shows a lot of the same penetrating ability from the 3-technique spot that Marks shows. He can fire off the ball quickly and immediately have the advantage against the offensive lineman. He then follows up on this advantage by using impressive strength and block shedding technique to discard the blocker.
If these plays don't win you over on Washington's strength and athleticism inside, there are more glaring examples.
Strength. The ability to physically manhandle blockers.
Athleticism. Quickness. Balance. Just fun football things.
Washington is also able to translate all of these tools into a pass rushing tool set that makes him an even more appealing prospect.
A big thing a lot of college defensive tackles lack, even when they have rare tools, is pass rushing technique. Players like Sheldon Richardson and Shariff Floyd were next level athletes in college, but they were inconsistent as pass rushers. You kind of had to project this skill based on their tools alone. This is not the case with Washington.
He consistently shows the proper get off and technique off the snap to take advantage of his matchups and pressure the quarterback.
He comes at quarterback with such intensity and such speed that he leaves them looking like a deer in the headlight every time he closes in on them.
"He has all the talent in the world, no 3-technique can pass rush like he can in college football. I don't believe there's anybody who's as quick and good with his hands. I think he's finally starting to show what he can do."
-- Joey Bosa, on Washington
That is a top-5 pick saying that his teammate is the best pass rushing defensive tackle in all of college football. And, frankly, there isn't really much reason to disagree with him.