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Comparing “Sacksonville” to the greats: 2000 Baltimore Ravens

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We keep hearing about how elite the 2018 “Sacksonville” defense is and how they can carry what is by all regards a fairly average offense deep into the playoffs, so I wanted to travel back into the annals of history and compare the Jacksonville Jaguars personnel to some of the legendary NFL defenses of yesteryear.

This is the first of a four-part installment that I will be doing across the month of September, and this episode mirrors the 2000 Baltimore Ravens defense.

Below you’ll find positional head-to-head match ups where I include a moment-in-time snapshot of each player’s statistics at the same point in their careers to illustrate how our young players are tracking against some all-time greats.

Let’s get started:

LDE | Calais Campbell vs. Rob Burnett

STAT SNAPSHOT COMPARISON (10 SEASONS):

Burnett: 56.5 sacks; 435 tackles; 5 forced fumbles; 9 fumbles recovered

Campbell: 71.0 sacks; 420 tackles; 11 forced fumbles; 9 fumbles recovered

A former fifth round pick by the Cleveland Browns in 1993, Burnett against Campbell is actually an eerily similar comparison due to their age. Burnett was 33 years old when the Ravens won the Super Bowl and his 2000 season was magical from a production standpoint (10.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 5 fumbles recovered, 1 interception). Burnett ended up playing 14 seasons in the NFL and compiling 73 sacks in his career but despite his longevity, was only selected to one Pro Bowl in his career, which pails in comparison to Campbell’s three Pro Bowls and one First Team All-Pro selection.

Advantage: Calais Campbell

LDT | Marcell Dareus vs. Sam Adams

STAT SNAPSHOT COMPARISON (7 SEASONS):

Dareus: 36.0 sacks; 223 tackles; 2 forced fumbles; 2 fumbles recovered

Adams: 25.0 sacks; 190 tackles; 4 forced fumbles; 4 fumbles recovered

An absolute unit, Adams was a plug in the defensive line and was literally a huge reason why the Ravens impressive linebacking unit was able to make so many plays in the second level. This will also be Dareus’ role in the defense this season, functioning to stuff the run and collapse the pocket from inside on early downs.

During the Ravens’ Super Bowl season, Adams only had 23 tackles and 2 sacks, which are pretty low numbers for Dareus to surpass despite his role as a one-technique taking on double teams. A two-time Pro Bowler and one-time First Team All-Pro, Dareus edges Sam Adams, who was selected to three Pro Bowls in his 14-year career.

Advantage: Marcell Dareus

RDT | Malik Jackson vs. Tony Siragusa

STAT SNAPSHOT COMPARISON (6 SEASONS):

Jackson: 29.0 sacks; 167 tackles; 6 forced fumbles; 3 fumbles recovered

Siragusa: 14.5 sacks; 326 tackles; 4 forced fumbles; 4 fumbles recovered

Siragusa was a big personality and is still top of mind for many football fans due to his broadcast responsibilities, but he was a limited athlete and served as more of a secondary nose tackle to Sam Adams than a true three-technique like Malik. One thing that can’t be ignored is that Siragusa had nearly three times the tackle volume as Jackson after six seasons with the Colts, so this is sort of an apples and oranges comparison despite technically playing the same position. I’ll give the edge to Malik, who has one more Pro Bowl than Goose, but feel free to argue with your house plant or in the comments below.

Advantage: Malik Jackson

RDE | Yannick Ngakoue vs. Michael McCrary

STAT SNAPSHOT COMPARISON (2 SEASONS):

Ngakoue: 20.0 sacks; 44 tackles; 10 forced fumbles; 4 fumbles recovered

McCrary: 5.5 sacks; 17 tackles; 2 forced fumbles; 0 fumbles recovered

A seventh round pick by the Seahawks in the 1993 NFL Draft, McCrary was a late bloomer when it comes to defensive ends, especially when comparing his two season snapshot to Yannick. Only one career Pro Bowl nomination behind, Ngakoue will far surpass McCrary as a player (10 forced fumbles in two seasons is just disgusting), but McCrary absolutely ramped it up in the postseason (two crucial sacks in the Super Bowl) despite only registering 6.5 sacks in the regular season. McCrary was good, but Yannick has a chance to be great.

Advantage: Yannick Ngakoue

SLB | Leon Jacobs vs. Peter Boulware

STAT SNAPSHOT COMPARISON (N/A):

A little unfair owing to Jacobs’ rookie status, but he will have to be quite the player to supplant Peter Boulware regardless. A hybrid defensive end/linebacker, the 1997 fourth overall pick tallied 11.5 sacks and 43 tackles as a rookie, and his 7.0 sacks in 2000 were a big catalyst to the Ravens’ success. Call me pessimistic, but I don’t see Jacobs notching double-digit sacks as a rookie, especially with the heavy emphasis on nickel in today’s game and such different linebacker responsibilities than Boulware.

Advantage: Peter Boulware

MLB | Ray Lewis vs. Myles Jack

STAT SNAPSHOT COMPARISON (2 SEASONS):

Jack: 82 tackles; 2.5 sacks; 0 forced fumbles; 2 fumbles recovered; 0 interceptions

Lewis: 251 tackles; 6.5 tackles; 2 interceptions

Sorry, Myles. I love you, but Ray Lewis is Ray Lewis. I really don’t think we need to go into detail here to validate the winner. Pro Football Reference didn’t have the fumble numbers for Lewis’ rookie year in 1996, but it doesn’t really matter.

Advantage: Ray Lewis

WLB | Telvin Smith vs. Jamie Sharper

STAT SNAPSHOT COMPARISON (4 SEASONS):

Smith: 345 tackles; 6.5 sacks; 4 forced fumbles; 5 fumbles recovered; 7 interceptions

Sharper: 225 tackles; 7.0 sacks; 6 forced fumbles, 2 fumbles recovered, 2 interceptions

A second round pick for the Ravens in 1997, Jamie Sharper was a solid player for the Ravens before moving on to the Texans in 2002. As good of a player as Sharper was, however, he was no Telvin Smith. Smith not only trumps Sharper in tackle volume but he also has a Pro Bowl selection on his resume over Sharper. The one notable statistic for Sharper is his five forced fumbles in the 2000 season, so Smith will have to continue churning out turnovers this season for the Jaguars to realize their championship dreams.

Advantage: Telvin Smith

CB | Jalen Ramsey vs. Chris McAlister

STAT SNAPSHOT COMPARISON (2 SEASONS):

Ramsey: 6 interceptions; 31 pass break ups; 107 tackles

McAlister: 9 interceptions; N/A pass break ups; 80 tackles

The 10th overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft, McAlister and Ramsey are in the same phase in their career when McAlister won the Lombardi trophy. While many Jaguars fans would lean with their king without hesitation, I’m here to throw in a Lee Corso “not so fast, my friend” and say Ramsey is the rarer athlete and will likely be a Hall of Fame cornerback at his current career trajectory, but it’s hard to ignore just how good McAlister was, especially in his first two years in his career. With pass break ups being an unavailable stat for McAlister on Pro Football Reference, I’ll give the slight edge to Ramsey for being a more complete defensive back despite McAlister having three more picks under his belt.

Advantage: Jalen Ramsey

CB | AJ Bouye vs. Duane Starks

STAT SNAPSHOT COMPARISON (5 SEASONS):

Bouye: 12 interceptions; 50 pass break ups; 169 tackles

Starks: 22 interceptions; N/A pass break ups; 234 tackles

People forget about Duane Starks with McAlister on the roster, and more casual NFL fans probably do the same to Bouye with Ramsey being the king of Duval. A very underrated player throughout the tenure of his career, Starks was actually also a tenth overall pick the year before McAlister. This match up is a little unfair to Bouye, who was not a full-time starter with the Texans until his third season, but I think it’s safe to say that Starks has the edge here.

The bright side is that despite a slower start out of the gate, Bouye has a great shot to beat Starks in the longevity department (eight total seasons) and could potentially be the better player at the end of his career.

Advantage: Duane Starks

SS | Barry Church vs. Kim Herring

STAT SNAPSHOT COMPARISON (7 SEASONS):

Church: 5 interceptions; 359 tackles; 0 sacks; 8 forced fumbles

Herring: 8 interceptions; 329 tackles; 2.0 sacks; 5 forced fumbles

Barry Church is the only player on the Jaguars who has outlasted his positional counterpart on this list, already having played eight seasons in the NFL (Herring had seven). If you add Church’s four interceptions and 1.5 sacks with the Jaguars last year, he leap frogs Herring in those categories. Herring was mainly a role player in the Ravens championship defense and did not have to do all that much playing next to a future Hall of Famer in Rod Woodson. Herring contributed three interceptions for the 2000 Ravens, and that’s about what we can expect from Church this season in his role as a veteran general of the secondary. I’m giving the nod to Church because he seems to be entering the prime of his career one year after Herring was out of the league.

Advantage: Barry Church

FS | Rod Woodson vs. Tashaun Gipson

STAT SNAPSHOT COMPARISON (2 SEASONS):

Gipson: 19 interceptions; 243 tackles; 0 sacks; 1 forced fumble

Woodson: 20 interceptions; 425 tackles; 7.5 sacks; 5 forced fumbles

Similar to the Ray Lewis debate, Rod Woodson is in the Hall of Fame and is a clear-cut winner over Tashaun Gipson. A six time First Team All-Pro and eleven time Pro Bowler, Gipson can’t even hold Woodson’s jock strap from a complete body of work perspective. With that being said, something that struck me in compiling the stat snapshot is that Gip has only one less interception than Woodson six seasons into his career, and Woodson was 35 years old during the Ravens 2000 season.

Advantage: Rod Woodson

Final Score: Jaguars win 7-4

As mentioned in the top of the article, the Jaguars have a special, special defense. A favorable comparison to one of the all-time greats in the 2000 Ravens should only validate just how elite this unit is. Even if you give the edge to Chris McAlister over Jalen Ramsey, the Jaguars are still majority winners with a 6-5 split.

So what do you think? Will the 2018 Jaguars be considered a legendary defense by season’s end?