The Jacksonville Jaguars will rely on the strength of their defense this coming season much as they did last year and the defensive line will carry much of the burden.
After collecting 55 sacks and boasting what was arguably the best defensive line in the league, Pro Football Focus is saying once again this is a top unit in the NFL — but not the top unit. That honor belongs to the Philadelphia Eagles.
2. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:
Edge Defender: Yannick Ngakoue, 83.6 overall grade
Defensive Interior: Marcell Dareus, 79.7
Defensive Interior: Malik Jackson, 86.4
Edge Defender: Calais Campbell, 93.5
Key Rotational Player: Dante Fowler Jr., 53.1
Pressure percentage as a team, 2017: 39.1% (3rd)
Oh boy is this a fun unit up front. The Jaguars pass-rush was instrumental in their success in 2017 and there are no signs that they are likely to slow down any in 2018. Campbell racked up 73 total pressures in the regular season in his first season in Jacksonville, producing a PFF grade of 93.5, the highest of his career to date. Opposite him, Ngakoue continues to emerge with 70 total pressures, including 13 sacks. With the success of those two, Jackson has been slept on, despite adding 51 pressures himself in the regular season. Fowler Jr. hasn’t lived up to his pre-draft hype yet, but is coming off a season where he produced up 37 total pressures, with flashes of good play.
According to PFF, the edge goes to the Eagles because of the difference in quality of the key rotational player — the Jaguars having Dante Fowler and the Eagles boasting a combination of Chris Long and Derek Barnett.
I think Taven Bryan will figure significantly into that rotational role, however, and that’s something PFF isn’t accounting for (and maybe they shouldn’t since he’s a rookie and his role and snap count remains to be seen). But if Bryan is worth the first round value the Jaguars — and other teams around the league — gave him, the Jaguars’ defensive line could challenge for that top spot.