This season has already been a crazy one for the Jaguars, and many thought that we would all be able to experience some relaxation during the bye week. As Lee Corso would say, not so fast my friend. Not only did the Jaguars retain one of their core pieces for the long haul in Telvin Smith, but they also went out and traded a conditional 6th round pick for defensive tackle Marcel Dareus, formally of the Bills.
This sent shock waves throughout the NFL. Not only was it unexpected, but all of sudden, one of the best defenses in the NFL got another big piece to use. There were some questions of why the Jaguars, who already have one of the best defenses in the league, were looking to add a big name player on that side of the ball.
There a few answers to the question, the first being, that the Jaguars felt they needed to do something to help their run defense. The Jaguars are giving up a league high 5.2 yards per carry in the NFL, as well as a league high 138.6 yards per game average. In the three games the Jaguars have lost this season, stopping the run has been a big issue, and teams have been able to exploit their struggling run defense.
There are many factors into why the Jaguars have struggled stopping the run, but their interior play on running downs has been the number one reason in my opinion. Abry Jones just has not matched his performance from last season, though i think he has been better of late. And Malik Jackson, who continues to be a very good player, has just not brought it in the run game this season.
In comes Dareus, who is one of the better run stuffers in the league. Dareus ranks 23rd out of 123 defensive lineman with a 10.2 percent run staff rate, according to NFL,com’s NextGenStats. Dareus also becomes the Jaguars second best run defender on the team according to Pro Football Focus, only behind a potential defensive player of the year candidate in Calais Campbell. Dareus has also had his most successful seasons under Doug Marrone, who coaches him in Buffalo for two seasons.
While Dareus by himself is not going to fix the run defense, his presence alone will help. The team will be able to rotate more comfortably on the defensive line, and keep fresh bodies coming in and out of the lineup. One thing that has impressed me about Coughlin (Outside of the way the quarterback position was handled), has been that when a a particular area of the team is struggling, he has not waited to address it. When Myers struggled, he was let go, and replaced by Josh Lambo. When the run defense has been deflated, they go out and get a guy like Dareus. I think there was too much blind loyalty by the last coaching staff, and not enough people being held accountable.
Which brings me to my next point, which is that the Jaguars feel that they can win right now. And you know what? They are right to think that way. They have the easiest strength of schedule remaining left in the NFL, and defense that keeps their team in the game every week. Is this team a Super Bowl contender? Probably not with Blake Bortles at the helm, but they definitely have a shot to be a playoff team, and that means something. For 10 years we have been talking about the future, of what could be. How much cap space we may have, or what players we should target in the draft. Right now, the Jacksonville fricken Jaguars have a chance to make the playoffs. They have a chance to host a playoff game for the first time in 18 years.
Would it have been a bigger splash if they traded for a quarterback? Sure, but no one is giving up good quarterbacks at this time of year. They saw a hole in this team, and went and tried to fix it. Will it work? Hopefully, but they fact that they are actively trying to get better a huge change in mindset from where they have been previously.
Dareus is a risk no doubt. He has his issues. It is never a good thing when the other teams fans are singing praises when a player leaves town. However, his stock dropping in Buffalo is what made his asking price worth it for the Jaguars. Dareus is a two time Pro Bowler, and someone everyone agrees has elite talent. Giving up a 6th round pick for a guy like that in the prime of his career is unheard of.
Alfie broke down the cap situation for the Jaguars, and how Dareus does not impact it as much as one may think. The team can move on from Dareus after 2018 with no cap hit, and can even move on from them after this season with not horrible dead money. Yes, decisions will have to be made regarding paying Campbell, Jackson, and Dareus over 45 million dollars combined. However, tough decisions always have to be made, especially as the Jaguars cap room starts to get slimmer. They can create space in many ways next season, with rolling over cap space, or moving on from guys like Blake Bortles, Allen Hurns, Jeremy Parnell, Chris Ivory, and Marcedes Lewis. Considering the Jaguars only huge big need is quarterback, they may not even gigantic cap space next year anyways. At the end of the day, there a bunch of ways they can create cap space, so it isn’t something to worry much about.
Dareus has the potential to be a guy who can come in and play at a pro bowl level, and turn the defense into a complete unit. One cannot underestimate what this does in the locker room, as there has to be a sense of urgency, as the front office has shown it believes this team has the ability to contend. It doesn’t happen much in football because of lack of trade deadline action, but it happens in baseball, basketball, and hockey. Hell, it has shown in this years World Series. Just look at the quotes from the Houston Astros players reaction when they traded for Justin Verlander. I am not saying Dareus is the Verlander of the NFL, but the boost of energy it gives in an already energetic team can be unprecedented.
Every trade has risk, and teams do not want to give up draft capital left and right. Even if Dareus only plays a season and half for this team, the chances of whoever they drafted with that 6th round pick making more of a difference than Dareus is slim to me.
The Jaguars have finally won the bye week. Telvin got extended, they traded for a Pro Bowler, and Jalen Ramsey was on ESPN repping the best defense in the NFL. Oh, and the Jaguars are going to wear teal on Sunday. I have no idea how this season will end, it has already been unpredictable. But the Jaguars are fun again, so lets enjoy the ride.