There are changes heading to the Jacksonville Jaguars defense. While that was already expected, it was made abundantly clear due to the team’s coaching hires and how both defensive coordinator Joe Cullen and assistant head coach/inside linebackers coach Charlie Strong spoke on Thursday at their introductory press conference.
For the past several seasons, the Jaguars have operated out of the simple, but oftentimes effective — given the right personnel — Seattle Seahawks’ Cover 3 scheme, which features great cornerback play, a four-man front, and speed at all levels of the defense.
That defense, however, has been exposed countless times among teams that use it, including the Seahawks themselves.
Under Cullen, the Jaguars will be more multiple, bringing a more dynamic scheme to Jacksonville for the first time in years, a defense that uses its personnel to the best of their abilities.
“We are still evaluating our current roster and I’ve been [in the NFL] for 14 years – eight years we were a 4-3 scheme and six years, we were a 3-4 scheme when we were multiple,” said Cullen. “It is all tailored to the personnel that you have and in both schemes, you have the flexibility to do both.”
Being multiple on defense is simply presenting a variety of fronts to change to the ever-adapting and electric defenses in today’s NFL. That much could be seen during this year’s Super Bowl under Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
Today, being multiple isn’t simply a buzzword, either. It is almost necessary considering the speed at which offenses are running and adapting. Being able to present different fronts and personnel assignments from a snap-to-snap basis causes issues for offenses, ultimately forcing them to guess, not know what the defense is doing on any given play.
This can be easily observed in this video below of the Ravens’ defense:
While young, the Jaguars have some intriguing players within its core. With edge rushers/outside linebackers K’Lavon Chaisson and Josh Allen and inside linebackers Myles Jack and Joe Schobert, Jacksonville will be able to deploy an intriguing front seven as soon as the team takes the field on Sunday’s in the fall.
“They could play in either scheme. Both of those guys are versatile, they are athletic,” Cullen said of Allen and Chaisson. “They can put their hand down, they can stand up. They can do a lot of different things, and I’m excited.”
The team’s assistant coaches will certainly play a key role within its defense, too. Brought along from Baltimore with Cullen were two coaches he certainly was familiar with in outside linebackers coach Zachary Orr and assistant defensive line coach Sterling Lucas.
Both coaches know and understand the system Cullen wants to run, having run the system, and played in it in Orr’s case, for years.
“They have great knowledge of the defense. Zach played in the system and then coached with me side-by-side for the last four years as well as Sterling. They just have a great knowledge, they have great energy,” said Cullen. “They are great working with players. Those are two key guys as the rest of our staff was as well.”
Brought along with Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer, Strong was the head coach’s first hire and first call. The leadership he will provide was something Meyer made sure to make a note of during his press conference on Thursday, too, calling strong one of, if not the most important hire he could make.
“He’s going to be the number two, that means the assistant head coach, and he’ll be in front of the team,” said Meyer.
“He’ll be my right-hand man as he’s been many, many times over my time at Florida. I always tell people that the chance of us winning those two National Championships without Charlie Strong would not have happened.
“[He’s] a high character guy, great family, someone that I trust explicitly, but also a guy I just feel very strong about being in front of the team, being in a locker room and being at my side.”
Speaking with the media for the first time on Thursday, Strong made it clear he was in lockstep with his defensive coordinator in Cullen. The Jaguars’ scheme is going to feature multiple looks, as it should in today’s NFL.
“The way that ball has evolved now, whether it be on a professional level or the collegiate level, you have to be very multiple on defense,” said Strong.
“Sometimes you can show three-down, sometimes you can show four-down, but it also goes back to the personnel. We’ve been evaluating our personnel here in the last few days that we’ve been in, so we know that we have some personnel here, but you always want to get more.
“It’s going to be conversations here in the next upcoming days where we go around to each position and each position coach has a chance to talk about his personnel and what his needs are.”
While both Chaisson and Allen are the centerpieces of the team’s pass rush moving forward, both Jack and Schobert will certainly be important in getting the defense out and running. Strong has already watched plenty of tape on both Jack and Schobert, noting that Jack is a fluid linebacker who can get downhill quickly.
He’s already spoken to Schobert at length, too, getting a better understanding for his new middle linebacker.
“You’re looking at two ‘backers that are kind of in the prime of their career because the length of time that they have been in the NFL, but guys that can make plays and guys that will become the staple of our defense,” says Strong. “If you’re not good at linebacker, then you really don’t have much of a chance to play really good defense.”
While there has been plenty of debate between a 3-4 or 4-3 defense for the Jaguars, it became clear on Thursday that the team will not adhere to the archaic thinking of defenses past, becoming “multiple,” and that’s a good thing.