Sink or float, the Jacksonville Jaguars will be continuing its path to success and development with first-round draft pick K’Lavon Chaisson this season.
Selected with the 20th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Chaisson was expected to become the team’s third pass rusher after Yannick Ngakoue and Josh Allen, however an Ngakoue trade and an Allen injury has forced the young pass rusher to step up into a larger role and his head coach, Doug Marrone, believes in the path they’ve set fourth for him.
“I think that [with] K’Lavon [Chaisson], I have a ton of respect for him,” said Marrone on Monday.
“I think he’s getting great experience right now as a rusher. I think it’s something that sometimes you take for granted with a lot of these players when they come into the league. I think that he’s learning a ton each game and how to set up people, learning plans, so I think he’s going to continue to get better. I think when it hits, it’s going to hit pretty good for him, meaning that when that switch kind of goes off.”
The Jaguars will need Chaisson to continue his development. Last week against the Detroit Lions, Chaisson played in placed of an injured Allen, on the field for 55 snaps, recording just two pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. On the year, Chaisson has played a total of 141 pass-rush snaps, and has netted just six pressures, and one sack - one of the team’s five on the year.
Shortly following his selection, Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell and Marrone speculated that Chaisson would be playing in more of a two-point stance, at outside linebacker to begin his career in Jacksonville. However, those plans changed over the summer after Chaisson missed some time due to a hamstring injury, and Ngakoue was subsequently traded to the Minnesota Vikings.
For now, the team believes in him as a defensive end and Marrone feels that’s the best place for him to learn, and learn quickly.
“This is some of the things that go on when you have young players in that position, so we felt we’d get the most out of him being just in the defensive end, working on that, and then gradually, if that role expands, then to expand it, but we wanted to get that done first because that was a high priority for us to try to get rush.”
While the Jaguars’ rookie has struggled thus far this season, his counterpart, Allen, believes in him and has spent time working each day after practice to help him fine tune his skills. At the end of the day, Allen said on Thursday, Chaisson will just need to go out on the gridiron and play as if it’s backyard football.
“Just don’t think, just react, just play free, play like you’re playing backyard football and just react,” Allen said when asked what advice he’s been giving to the rookie pass rusher.
“When you overthink and you overanalyze in the game, it tends to slow your game down and you just have to see ball, get ball, see your man and see what he’s doing and just react off of that and just go. That’s something that we’ve been harping on and he’s getting it. He’s still a rookie, but he’s getting it down and hopefully he’ll have a tremendous game and I think he is.”
Allen entered last season as the team’s top draft selection at No. 7 overall. While he was a first-round pass rusher similar to Chaisson going into 2019, Allen’s role with the team was quite different. Last season, Jacksonville manned two of the top, premier pass rushers in the league in Ngakoue and now-Baltimore Ravens defensive end/tackle Calais Campbell.
Having two threats ahead of him allowed Allen to play differently than how Chaisson has been able to this season, more more freely.
“It was big just to get my confidence up. Last year I was fortunate to have Yan[nick Ngakoue] and Calais [Campbell] rushing with me so I took my job a little bit lax right there, so that made it easy for me,” Allen says.
“But, just training early definitely was a confidence booster for me, just to know that I can play within the scheme and play against other high-caliber players and be successful. So just playing early is definitely good and that’s something that he has to learn. It’s something that he has to just really accept and just play as hard as he can.”
Against the Los Angeles Chargers, Allen will return after a two-week absence due to a knee injury, something that ought to help Chaisson in his development and perhaps when he can play “lax” as Allen was able to last season with the help he received from Campbell and Ngakoue.