The 2016 season is behind us, so it’s time to review and grade the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 2016 performance, unit by unit. Ryan Day covered the offensive line earlier last week. Up next? The Jaguars’ secondary.
The Jaguars’ secondary was highlighted by rookie Jalen Ramsey, who is being considered for NFL Rookie of the Year and already looked upon as a "lockdown cornerback"...
But that’s pretty much it.
The next best player was likely strong safety Johnathan Cyprien. Not to say he’s a special player whatsoever, because he can’t cover anywhere besides in the flats, but he seemed comfortable playing as a box safety in the Jaguars’ cover 3 scheme. He finished second on the team in tackles with 127, but the majority came from playing against the run — that shouldn’t be something you value highly from a safety. If the Jaguars are to use more cover 4 or 2 next year, rather than almost constantly playing cover 3 with a safety in the box, the team needs to find a new starter at strong safety.
Cornerback Prince Amukamara has been below average. People tend to defend him due to the fact that receivers he covered were targeted much more than any receiver that Jalen Ramsey covered. That’s great and all, and it shows just how good Ramsey is, but that isn’t a good defense for Amukamara.
He was consistently eaten up at the sticks, and failed to make any breaks on the ball. For a CB that was consistently targeted, you should certainly expect more than six defended passes and zero interceptions. Amukamara was signed on a one year "prove it" deal to display his worth, and he didn’t prove much at all. Time to upgrade at CB across from Ramsey.
Finally, for the starters, free safety Tashaun Gipson had a disappointing year. He was signed to be Bradley’s single-high free safety in his (horrible) defensive scheme, where he was to be utilized to create turnovers — he only had one interception and it came off a tipped pass.
Gipson said when the season ended that he felt he was forced to play out of his comfortable position all year and considered himself as a "babysitter". Whether this to be believed or not, I still think we need to give him one more year to prove himself in a more standard defensive scheme, especially because he is signed to a five year, $36 million contract.
As for depth and rotational players, Aaron Colvin saw a decrease in playing time from 2015 and mainly played as the nickel cornerback. He had zero defended passes and did not create much of an impact at all. Josh Johnson, originally a long shot to make the roster from training camp, had a great preseason and made the team. In his eight games (zero starts, mostly rotating snaps), he recorded nine tackles and a defended pass against the Colts in week 4.
Jalen Ramsey is the future of this secondary, and potentially the entire Jaguars defense, but there was not much help coming from the three other starting defensive backs in 2016. As I said before, Gipson should get one more year in a new scheme, but as for strong safety and cornerback opposite of Ramsey, the Jaguars need to find new starters. However, if possible, keeping Cyprien and/or Amukamara as depth players wouldn’t be a horrible thing.