The Jacksonville Jaguars made a slew of staff changes on Tuesday afternoon after new head coach Doug Marrone and VP of football operations Tom Coughlin met with the staff. The biggest changes came on the defensive side of the football, where Marrone relieved everyone except defensive coordinator Todd Wash and a defensive assistant. The retaining of Wash, as well as offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, received a lot of push back from fans about what was really changing. Like Hackett on the offensive side of the ball ended up the coordinator of Greg Olson’s offensive scheme, Wash was the coordinator for Gus Bradley’s defensive scheme.
While yes, the Jaguars defense was adequate in 2016 and really good at times, it wasn’t as good as many tout it to be. The team finished sixth in total yards given up, sixth in pass defense but 19th in run defense and 25th in points allowed.
The Jaguars defense for the most part was good enough to keep them in games, but more often than not could not hold on at the end and gave up game winning or go ahead drives. The biggest culprit was the lack of a consistent pass rush to threaten teams, especially when it mattered, and a lot of that had to do with the defensive scheme, which Gus Bradley brought with him from his tenure with the Seattle Seahawks.
Wash did do a nice job running Bradley’s scheme, but with these changes it signals the Jaguars are ready to let Wash develop his own. The blowout of the defensive staff should signal to a scheme change for the Jaguars defense, which is what was needed.
While Todd Wash joined the Jaguars with Bradley in 2013, calling him a Bradley disciple isn’t entirely accurate. Both worked together in Seattle for two seasons, but they also worked together on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under Monte Kiffin. Wash spent a lot of his time at the NFL level under both Kiffin and Raheem Morris, both who ran more of a traditional 4-3 defensive front than the system Bradley tried to copy from Seattle in Jacksonville.
We don’t know for sure what a Todd Wash schemed defense would look like, but Ryan O’Halloran of The Florida Times-Union has an idea of what we might see going forward.
Among the possible changes: More split safety downfield, which will allow the cornerbacks to play tighter coverage and produce pass breakups and interceptions? A strong-side linebacker who is off the ball? More early-down blitzes? Expect the Jaguars to be more aggressive in coverage under Wash – their seven interceptions were last in the NFL this year.
If the Jaguars do move to a more traditional 4-3 defensive front, it could spell bad news for guys like Jared Odrick who many think will be a cap casualty anyway. It would also spell good news for someone like Myles Jack who could realistically play all three linebacker positions in a traditional front, versus being relegated to the useless OTTO position in Bradley’s scheme. Speaking of, I would hope the LEO, OTTO, LOTTO and any other janky defensive position names are shot into the sun with Wash.
Whether the Jaguars move to a 4-3 or a 3-4, the important thing is that Wash establishes his own defensive scheme around the talent he has at his disposal, rather than trying to emulate someone else and fit a square peg into a round hole.