The Jaguars have a plan for first round rookie K’Lavon Chaisson, and that plan doesn’t include playing linebacker. Instead the former LSU pass rusher will be playing defensive end, and defensive coordinator Todd Wash feels it’s the best situation for Chaisson and the team.
“I think we want to do what’s best for our football team and obviously what’s best for him to have success,” Wash told reporters earlier today via video conference call. “We’re going to play him at defensive end, he’s going to be playing a lot for us and we’re very, very excited about that.”
That didn’t always appear to be the case, however.
After the draft in April, Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Doug Marrone suggested the pass rusher would be playing a variety of positions, including linebacker. Currently, Chaisson is listed on the team’s roster as an outside linebacker/defensive end.
“The thing about K’Lavon Chaisson that I really love is that he can play that SAM linebacker position in base downs and he can rush the quarterback,” Marrone said in April. “He can rush the quarterback from a 2-point stance, and you could argue whether he’s a better rusher out of a 3-point stance.”
Those plans appear to have changed, and in the wake of the team trading defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to the Minnesota Vikings, perhaps the Jaguars no longer have much of a choice.
Currently, the Jaguars have a few options at “big end,” the team could opt to play Adam Gotsis at the position or use Dawuane Smoot, who is looking to have a major breakout season during his contract year. It appears, though, Chaisson could find himself in the mix as well.
“Like I said, the best thing is what’s best for our team and what’s best for him for us to have the best success,” Wash explained. “And we feel right now that’s going to be leaving him at defensive end. But he can also play in our sub-package the big ends. So, he’s got a real nice skill set that we’re able to get him and Josh [Allen] on the grass a lot together.”
At 6-foot-3, 254 pounds, Chaisson has the mold to play in a three-point stance at defensive end, and hold up against the run just fine. It will take time for him to get adjusted to the pro game, especially going up against NFL-caliber offensive tackles, however Wash feels as though his strength gives him the confidence that he will be successful.
“I was talking with Dave [Caldwell] and Doug [Marrone] the other day. I think he’s a lot stronger than I anticipated, when he gets down there and lines up on tight ends and stuff, he’s a lot stronger than I thought he was going to be,” said Wash.
“So, we’re really excited about that, the strength that he can play. And we can get both of them on the field at the same time in a lot of situations, him and Josh [Allen]. But the biggest thing is you see him really show up as a pass rusher, he’s getting on edges. We need to continue to work with some power and that kind of stuff. But you see a natural pass rusher which is really nice to see, especially as a rookie.”
The team will depend on production out of Chaisson early and often after the hits they’ve taken on the defensive line thus far this season.
Marrone has been excited about what Chaisson has brought to the table throughout a strange training camp since the young defensive end came back from an injured hamstring.
“I’m probably, I would say that I’m more impressed with him now and his ability and his talent than I was when we actually took him,” Marrone said in August.
“And even though we took him in the first round, I know you guys are probably going ‘Oh I mean gosh, obviously you knew what you were getting.’ But a little bit different now, I mean, the guy is extremely fast and he covers a lot of ground in a short period of time.”
Though, there was much debate, that debate appears to be solidified and Chaisson will be playing defensive end, not linebacker after all.