With Campbell now out of the picture, the Jaguars will seemingly be turning to the team’s longest-tenured player in defensive tackle Abry Jones. Jones, 28, has been with the Jaguars since 2013 after he was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Georgia. He is currently the elder statesman of a defensive line that includes multiple players still on their rookie deal.
Now, the Jaguars and defensive coordinator Todd Wash are turning to Jones along to fill the void Campbell’s departure has left.
“The first day that we had the vets in the building, Abes [Abry Jones] and I sat down — eight years ago I was coaching Abes so we have a very good relationship, and I said, ‘It’s time. It’s time for you to really take control,’ Wash told members of the media via a virtual video conference call on Friday.
While Jones will be part of the transition, the team is also looking towards second-year defender Josh Allen, who has already taken it upon himself to lead by example and help teach rookie pass rusher K’Lavon Chaisson, routinely seen working with the rookie following practice.
“But him and Abes really need to step up and lead that group. Abes knows what I expect in that room. I think this year, you’re going to see a little bit more hands-on with that group by myself and Rebs [Jaguars Defensive Line Coach Jason Rebrovich].
“And he knows how I want it to look and he knows how I want those guys to practice, what I expect in meeting rooms and Abes is going to help us get to that standard that we want, especially with all these new guys.”
Jones, now entering his eighth season in the league, is taking the responsibility in stride, and told reporters as much on Thursday. Jones has already had young players calling and asking advice. He’s responded in kinda, teaching them the little things, working on technique and simply making sure the defensive line is better than last year, he says.
“I’ve got to put a little bit more on myself,” said Jones. “Even though I’ve been the longest tenured guy, I’ve been kind of lucky in the vocal leadership department. When I was here we had Roy [Miller], then Malik [Jackson] took over for a little bit, then we had Calais [Campbell] - and everyone knows how great of a leader he is.”
The Jaguars are entering a pivotal year in the organization’s history. While the expectations are low nationally, within the organization the team doesn’t appear to be in agreement, regardless of how young the roster is.
“I’m telling the guys that we lost people off this D-line,” Jones said when asked how the team plans to get better at stopping the run. “The outside noise is expecting us to drop off and we just have to use that to motivate ourselves. We watch film every day and everyone feels like they have a chip on their shoulder because they know they’re a better player than that.”
With a young roster, there will certainly be mistakes made, players out of position or miscommunication, however, the team is set to rely on its veterans to lead the way. In the meantime, Jones will be front and center of it all.