New Jacksonville Jaguars Defensive Coordinator Joe Cullen expects big things from his defensive line.
Cullen expects the sack numbers to be doubled this upcoming year, a year after the Jaguars were 31st in the NFL in sacks(they had 18). New Jaguars Defensive Line Coach Tosh Lupoi believes that goal is obtainable with the guys in the room. “There’s no doubt we’re really excited about, by committee, a lot of individuals inside we think can help us raise our level of play,” Lupoi said.
The headliner of the group is Josh Allen, who had 10.5 sacks in his rookie year. Last season Allen was hampered by injuries and only garnered 2.5 sacks. Lupoi has said Allen has “dominated” his offseason training. “[Allen] is another guy, when you step in the building and we’re learning where our office is, one of the first guys I meet is him. He’s in there lifting, training, getting ready for the goals he has to attack with the season ahead.”
Cullen and Lupoi have large expectations for Allen, who is the Jaguars best pass rusher. Baltimore used Matthew Judon in a lot of different areas en route to six sacks last year, and Lupoi expects the same for Allen.
“I think [Allen] is a really versatile athlete,” Lupoi said. “He’s somebody that can play on the edge, operate out of two-point, a three-point. We’re going to ask him to rush the passer, set edges, drop in coverage and up to this point, he’s done a nice job attacking all three of those phases.”
Behind Allen, however, is where the Jaguars made the most strides in the offseason. Trading for Malcolm Brown, drafting Jay Tufele, and signing Jihad Ward and Roy-Robertson Harris gives the Jaguars a lot more depth without even mentioning DaVon Hamilton, Doug Costin, K’Lavon Chaisson and Dawuane Smoot, who were all with the team last year.
“If we can function at a high effort level and we get the results from that, then that’s something you can’t deny and it’s [an] easy buy in, so that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Lupoi said. “The guys that are going to be up for gameday are going to be treated, each one of them, as starters. We’re going to roll those guys in and ask of them, whosever at that specific role, there will be no accepting a lesser standard for individual of the assignment we ask them to execute.”
The big question mark of the defensive line is former first round pick Taven Bryan. Bryan has had a rough career in Duval, with his playing time getting cut and being taken out of the starting lineup. The Jaguars declined Bryan’s fifth year option this offseason, making this year a critical one for Bryan. Lupoi sees the potential in Bryan, however, and also sees a potential hybrid role for Bryan.
“Taven is a dangerous combination of speed and power,” Lupoi said. “He has [an] elite skillset and talent, we just have to channel that and focus that where we need to help us most. What we need to do is get him focused, confident of where he needs to align, assign, and execute. If we can put that together, he can be a great contributor this season.”
During rookie camps and minicamps, Cullen and Lupoi have worked closely with the defensive line, considering Cullen’s history as a defensive line coach.
“[Cullen] is someone that’s been an expert at coaching d-line and front seven play, he’s been a coordinator on multiple occasions, and he’s someone that’s been a part of this specific system for the last five seasons as well,” Lupoi said. “When a coach knows and understands the why behind what we’re coaching, then ultimately, I think it’s going to be as clear as possible as far as getting that information to the players. It’s great to know we all come from different foundations and, over the years, put together our own packages and what we’re most confident in coaching.”
With the additions of Cullen and added bepth and talent along the defensive line, the unit can compete in the trenches with some of the NFL’s best. So far, Lupoi can see the direction the unit is going: straight to the QB.