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The Jacksonville Jaguars are primed for the most exciting season in franchise history. Man, does it feel good to say that!
The Jaguars defense is a work in progress. That’s not to say there will be a regression... but with new defensive coordinator Joe Cullen bringing new ideas and a heavier reliance on 3-4 base packages, it’ll look different.
And no player will feel the effects of that more than second-year player K’Lavon Chaisson, who has been tabbed as the most interesting project on the team for 2021.
Jacksonville Jaguars 2020 first-round pick K’Lavon Chaisson was quiet despite playing in all 16 games as a rookie.
The No. 20 overall selection out of LSU recorded one sack and nine quarterback hits on 568 snaps. And the Jags, who had 2019 first-rounder Josh Allen on the depth chart, retained solid and underrated veteran Dawuane Smoot as well as Adam Gotsis while bringing in vet Jihad Ward.
Chaisson might have to fight hard for reps as a sophomore.
The good news is he did appear to come on late in his rookie season, and the athletic and versatile former first-team All-SEC linebacker is still 21 years old. Even if he continues to come along slowly in Jacksonville, it’s too early to call him a bust and tough not to be excited about his potential.
The good news? Chaisson will have plenty of opportunities to improve.
The team left their pass rushing unit relatively untouched this offseason and as reported by John Shipley over at The Jaguar Report, teammates believe that Chaisson’s late-season spark was the beginning of consistent production.
“If we were back at the scheme last year, I feel like he was going to take a big jump,” defensive lineman Josh Allen said. “He knows what he had to do to correct what he did last year, and he only got better. I’ve seen a huge improvement from this year to last year and again, I can’t wait to see him go out there and compete and make a lot of plays for us.”
Chaisson was certainly improving as the season was winding down, totaling 21 pressures in the last seven games. And a pass rush summit led by Von Miller should help him with some basic technical aspects of the NFL game.
But the biggest help to Chaisson will be a position switch, in my opinion. He’s being given the opportunity to start from scratch under Cullen and transition to strong side linebacker. Chaisson is not a true, three-down defensive end and he was asked to do that more often than he should have been under the old coaching regime.
Much like Myles Jack’s brief hiatus at middle linebacker, the Jaguars fell victim to the Peter Principle—the belief that people are promoted based on their success in previous jobs, rather than given the position they excel at. This leads to people eventually hitting a level of incompetence. Jack was given a raise and was moved to middle linebacker because he excelled at his outside linebacking performance, with little thought given to the fact that... well... Jack’s skill set didn’t really suit the middle linebacker position.
Hopefully, Chaisson’s move to linebacker—and away from a premium position like edge rusher simply because he was a first round draft pick—pays off this season.