The Jacksonville Jaguars hopes of addressing defensive end and opening up their options with the No. 4 overall pick took a massive hit this week when franchise tags came down for Chandler Jones, Jason Pierre-Paul and Melvin Ingram. While it's not a sure thing the Jaguars would have gotten any of those players, the option was available. Now, the best of the crop are aging players like Calais Campbell or inconsistent players like Jabaal Sheard.
I won't be surprised if the Jaguars sign one of those players to add to the rotation, but I think it also means that it will be a surprise if the Jaguars do not take a pass rusher with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Make no mistake, the Jaguars biggest need outside of quarterback play is rushing the passer.
Typically when this gets discussed, people try to bring up the excellent rookie season that Yannick Ngakoue had and the fact that the team spent the No. 3 overall pick on Dante Fowler, Jr. to try to squelch the idea that it's necessary to take a pass rusher early, but that doesn't really diffuse the point like people think. First of all, Ngakoue had a wonderful rookie season as a third round pick getting eight sacks, which was a Jaguars rookie record. I don't want to take anything away from "my guy", but you can't expect that year in and year out. I hope he provides that, but even as a rookie he wasn't consistent putting pressure on the quarterback and ultimately, more than his sack total, that's what is going to matter. Adding someone to the mix with Ngakoue is ultimately going to make him better and more productive.
As for Fowler, I hope he ends up working out, but at this point I'll believe it when I see. Yes, the Jaguars spent a premium pick on him and you want him to work out, but he should absolutely not prevent you from adding to the defensive line with a premium investment. The team has already made mention they plan to move Fowler around and try to best utilize his skill-set, which should tell you right away they need to add another full time end. Fowler is someone you hope works out, but you can't operate as if he will work out at this point. You're simply setting yourself up for failure by doing so.
Plus, what happens if one of Ngakoue or Fowler gets hurt for a stretch? You don't really have anything behind them. You have Chris Smith, who I'd be surprised if he's on the roster in 2017 and who was a healthy scratch for most of the season, and that's about it. I do believe the Jaguars will bring Tyson Alualu back and he can play end if necessary, but you absolutely need more talent there.
The team needs to add bodies to defensive end and they need to add them earlier and with premium talent. Tom Coughlin didn't balk at drafting Jason Pierre-Paul because his team already had Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck. That's a position you keep adding premium talent to when you can, and the Jaguars most likely will be in a position to do that.
You can't take a single season and project that to be what it will always be going forward, especially from first year players. You'd think we'd have learned that lesson by now, but understandably it's hard for fans to consistently think that way. Fans always want hope, so they'll typically default there and I can't blame them.
But again, defensive end is absolutely the biggest need for this football team headed into 2017.