JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BVM) – The Jacksonville Jaguars are playing meaningful games in December for the first time since 2017. Trevor Lawrence is looking like a franchise quarterback, Doug Pederson has righted the ship after Urban Meyer tried to capsize it and the Jaguars have an outside chance at the playoffs.
However, if Jacksonville wants this to be more than just a one–time thing, the Jaguars have some serious holes to address during the offseason. ESPN’s Mike DiRocco spoke about what Jacksonville needs to do in the offseason on a recent episode of “Simple Question.”
“They don’t rush the passer very well,” DiRocco said. “They’ve got a huge hole at the other cornerback opposite Tyson Cambell so I think those are their two biggest needs that they’re going to have to address in the draft.”
The Jaguars’ defense is 29th in the NFL in sacks so far this season and are tied for the fourth most passing touchdowns allowed by a team. Despite the investment Jacksonville has put into the defensive side of the ball, there has been little to no return.
“They’ve invested a lot of money, guaranteed money, it’s like $130 million dollars in guaranteed money over the last two years on defensive free agents,” DiRocco said. “Five draft picks in the first three rounds on defensive players and this defense is still struggling.”
First overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Travon Walker, looks like he will be a star once he gets used to playing outside linebacker and the Jaguars figure out how to best use him. Yet, seventh overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Josh Allen, looks like a bust and should be replaced this offseason.
“They’ve got to find somebody else opposite Travon Walker,” DiRocco said.
Edge rushers like Myles Murphy out of Clemson and Tyree Wilson from Texas Tech would be perfect for what the Jaguars need. Otherwise, Jacksonville could be looking at Cam Smith of South Carolina, Keelee Ringo from Georgia or Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. could also be on the team’s radar if it decides to go the defensive back route instead.
Going defense makes sense for Jacksonville, thanks to the success of the offense along with the Calvin Ridley trade. Since November, Lawerence has thrown for 1,362 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. Zay Jones and Christain Kirk have proven they can be capable pass catchers and once Ridley is added to the receiving room, it has the potential to be special with Lawrence undercenter. But, the Jaguars may need to address the tight end position depending on what happens with Evan Engram.
“I think Evan Engram has to be priority No. 1,” DiRocco said.
In his first year in Jacksonville, Engram has quietly had one of the best seasons for a tight end in franchise history and is trending towards a career high in catches. Bringing him back will be important in helping Lawrence continue to grow, but the Jaguars don’t have a lot of cap space to work with.
Jacksonville is over the cap currently for the 2023 season so that will need to be addressed. It is unlikely the Jaguars will try to make a big splash signing but they should be able to bring back Engram and defensive end Dawuane Smoot, who DiRocco believes will be another priority for Jacksonville in free agency.
“I do think Smoot will be a priority for them to bring back because he’s a very good role player and he’s a guy that can play that outside linebacker spot and along the defensive line,” DiRocco said.
Bringing back both players and then finding some help on the interior of the defensive line should be the goal for Jacksonville in free agency. As for the draft, Jacksonville will have to use its picks to continue to improve the defense to find players that affect opponents’ passing game.
There is a lot to be excited about in Jacksonville right now and there is a lot of hope in the future. With the offense playing the way it has recently, it wouldn’t be surprising for the Jaguars to really contend with the Tennessee Titans for the AFC South next season if they can address the holes on defense.