Last month, the Jaguars made a pointed effort to shore up their front seven with the additions of linebacker Joe Schobert, defensive end Rodney Gunter, and nose tackle Al Woods.
All three players represent areas the team struggled at, or was missing a piece heading into this year’s free agency period. Last year, the Jaguars were one of the worst run-defense teams in the NFL, surrendering a 28th worst 139.3 yards per game on the ground.
The Jaguars opted to not pick up defensive tackle Marcell Dareus’ option for this season making the formidable nose tackle a free agent, and adding fuel to the fire on the urgency to address the position during free agency, along with the 2020 NFL Draft.
Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone spoke with the media last month to answer questions regarding the team’s priorities and how they addressed the positions they did during free agency. One commonality which occurred during the nearly 45-minute remote press conference was stopping the run.
“I think when you’re looking at those three players that we brought in,” Marrone said when we asked about Gunter, Marsh, and Woods, “they’re solid guys, they’re solid football players, they bring some versatility, but the main thing is, like I said before, our priority was making sure we brought people in to stop the run.”
All three players represent a level of the defensive line and the linebacker group which has been stressed to stop the run. Both Gunter and Woods have had extensive playing time along multiple fronts, which adds to their versatility. Marrone also added that when entering free agency, getting players which can be used in multiple positions “always helps”, adding value to the players.
In speaking to how the team evaluates certain positions on the roster, Marrone explained that while the team still looks to add players who can play on all three downs, one shouldn’t undersell the importance of a player who can stop the run on first and second down.
“...well I would say that anyone that’s followed us knows that we have struggled playing against the run,” said Marrone. “When you look at when we had Marcell [Dareus] in there, we did much better. Well, that was one player. Well now, when we look at these players that we’re bringing in or players that we have on the team, we can’t undersell the value of somebody being able to stop the run on first and second down.”
As the 2020 NFL Draft quickly approaches, this mindset of stopping the opposing running game should continue to be monitored. One player in particular worth keeping an eye on for the Jaguars is Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown.
Brown, while he did not post favorable numbers at the 2020 Scouting Combine this year, has been one of the most sought-after prospects this draft seasons, showcasing an incredible ability to anchor the line of scrimmage, able to stop a running back in his tracks.
Brown may not be able to out-muscle players in the NFL as easily as he was in college, and his athleticism certainly does not indicate he will be much of a threat as a pass rusher, but it is clear to see the Jaguars’ priorities.
According to a report from Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, the Jaguars are one team to watch for Brown next week.
Here is what Breer had to say:
A player teams like more than the general public knows: Auburn DT Derrick Brown. He’s a very clean prospect with a high floor, and a lot of teams’ decision-makers would be surprised if he makes it past the Panthers at No. 7. I’d put the Jaguars down as another team that’s been connected to him, so much so that Jacksonville may get aggressive in trying to trade down if he’s gone when they pick at No. 9, to be better position to get a receiver or corner.
If Brown were to fall to the Jaguars at pick No. 9, he would make sense considering comments from Marrone, and the team’s makeup along the defensive line currently. If the team’s priority is to stop the run, getting the 6-foot-5, 320 pound Brown and pairing him with Woods is one way to do that.