The Jacksonville Jaguars have faced a lot of attrition along the defensive line heading into the 2020 season, due to a combination of opt-outs, retirements and injuries. That means the players who are still around need to step up and play a bigger role.
One of those players is third-year defensive lineman, Taven Bryan. Bryan has had a bit of a slow start thus far into his career. After experimenting with him as a defensive end as a rookie, the Jaguars quickly decided to move Bryan back inside to the three-technique spot.
Bryan’s physical and athletic traits have always been impressive, and he has flashed his potential from time to time, but hasn’t been able to be productive on a consistent basis. After two full seasons in Jacksonville, Bryan has recorded just three sacks (one as a rookie in 2018 and two in 2019) with 11 quarterback hits, 53 total tackles, eight tackles for loss and one forced fumble, according to Pro Football Reference. Bryan started eight games for the Jaguars last season and actually had a solid overall grade of 75.6 from Pro Football Focus.
Now entering 2020, Bryan looks to play a heavy role for the Jaguars’ young defense. Defensive line coach Jason Rebrovich had some good things to say about Bryan, who Rebrovich notes has been a standout so far in training camp. It’s just a matter of putting everything together for the former Florida Gator.
“Taven, as you guys all know, he’s one of the most gifted, physical, strong, athletic big men at 295, 298 pounds,” Rebrovich said. “But, what the thing is, Taven at times overanalyzes some things. And it’s analyze by paralysis or paralysis by analysis, however you want to say it. That’s the biggest thing that we’ve transitioned here in the first part of camp is saying ‘Taven, here’s your three things that you got to do on each snap, that’s it. And if you can hone in on those three things, and not let yourself wander around and look at this and look at that and guess, if you can hone (in) on that, good things are gonna happen.”’
According to Rebrovich, Bryan has been able to build upon his confidence throughout camp, and people are starting to take notice. The defensive line coach had high praise for Bryan, and has been impressed with the strong string of performances he has seen the young defender put together in the past several practices.
“Hopefully all of you guys have watched some tape for the last nine or 10 practices, Taven Bryan is having one heck of a camp,” Rebrovich said. “He’s shown up quite a bit. His running and his toughness at the point of attack and how he strains, it’s showing. His confidence level is coming with that, too. Everybody wants to get a pat on the back, everybody does. When other guys in that room sit there, and they look at it, they see it, when (Bryan) shows up and he starts getting those pats on the back, that confidence breeds a lot. You can see that Taven has really adopted it now, and he’s seeing it a little bit — you can say slower or quicker, however you want to say it— you know the game slows down for some people and it’s definitely working for him. We’re looking for a lot of good things from that young man.”
As mentioned, Bryan has had his fair share of struggles early on in his career, and with expectations being high for the former first-round selection, fans and media have been quick to point out said struggles. At times, Rebrovich noted that Bryan may have been frustrated, but he’s taken things in stride, blocked out the noise and has been willing to learn from those around him.
When asked if Bryan was discouraged in the past when things didn’t quite go his way, or if he has let things bother him, Rebrovich had this to say:
“I don’t know if (he’s been) discouraged, frustrated, maybe that’s the same type of word, but yeah anybody’s going to be frustrated,” Rebrovich said. “I think you sit down with him and you watch him and you go over the plays, and you start saying, ‘Hey, see this other man, he’s making that play a lot better than you are right here, and this is what you have to do to get better.’ But, these guys, they’re men, and if you treat them like men and you talk to them like men and they have an idea that you got their back and you bring some energy every day to them, these guys are going to play. They’re going to play for themselves and play for each other and go win a championship.
“If you know Taven Bryan, (he) doesn’t care about what the outside world says about this guy,” Rebrovich said. “That’s not Taven. He takes more to heart what other people are saying in that room. Whether it’s a fellow d-lineman, whether it’s a coach, whether it’s Coach (Todd) Wash, whether it’s Coach (Doug) Marrone, whoever it is. I personally never heard any type of a story brought up of ‘This was (written) about me in the paper’ or this, that or the other. That’s not Taven. He’s more to himself, and he’d rather listen to his peers to get himself better or more prepared for what he needs to do.”
As mentioned above, Bryan did have to deal with a position change along the defensive line. Making the switch from a strong-side defensive end, to a three-technique defensive tackle isn’t as easy as some may believe. While Bryan’s current position in the interior is a much more natural position for him than that as a defensive end, there is still a pretty big learning curve.
Rebrovich is aware of the difficulty of making that transition, and knows everything that goes into it, but has big plans for Bryan this season.
“The closer you get to the ball, the harder the game is,” Rebrovich said. “So we transitioned to him, as you guys know, playing a little bit more d-end early in his career to kind of pick up the speed and then obviously transition him now down to his home position as a three-technique. So yeah there’s a learning curve, there’s a growth. Do I see that? There is no doubt. I mean Taven is mentally, physically understanding what we’re asking him to do from a strain standpoint in the run game and guys see it, like I said. There’s a lot of confidence going into that young man right now.”
Last week, we talked about whether or not defensive end Dawuane Smoot could step up and potentially have a breakout season. Rebrovich had some positive things to say on Smoot as well, saying he’s had “substantial growth.”
Smoot also praised Bryan, calling him a “wrecking ball,” and noting that Bryan makes an impact even if the stat sheet doesn’t show it.
Given all of the attrition and new faces, the development of the defensive line is going to be one of the most interesting storylines to watch heading into the regular season.