Coach Del Rio (Getty Images)
Jacksonville’s traditionally stout defense took another step back last season, as the team was in the bottom half of the league for total yards allowed for the first time since the 2002 season. How does Coach Del Rio plan on getting the team’s 17th ranked defense back to prominence? Del Rio will try a hands-on approach along with several other shakeups to get his defense back on track.
Jack Del Rio is known as one of the best defensive-minded coaches in the league, so finishing in the bottom half in the NFL in total defense was something that seemed uncharacteristic for the Jaguars. Some bad free agent acquisitions, the loss of defensive coordinator Mike Smith, and other internal factors certainly didn’t help, so Del Rio is making sure that there won’t be any excuses this year.
“I’m directly involved,” Del Rio said in regards to his new role with the defense. “It’s something I feel like the standard that we set has not been met the last year or two and so we’re getting back to some of the things we believe in, working hard at it. We’ve got a ways to go but we’ve got a good start.”
Del Rio made his mark as a defensive coordinator in Carolina, and his excellent work earned him his current position. While Del Rio will not technically be the defensive coordinator for the Jaguars this year, he said he is enjoying a greater role on that side of the ball, starting with his experience this year at the Senior Bowl.
“Being in with my feet in the grass, out there coaching, it’s really what I love most about what I do.”
The team’s true defensive coordinator will be Mel Tucker, who is coming in from Cleveland. Tucker has experience coaching the 3-4 and will likely give Jacksonville the flexibility to run a hybrid 3-4/4-3.
“We have some 3-4 principles that we’re going to run that Coach Tucker brought with him from Cleveland, and we’ve got some stuff that we’ve been doing here successfully and we’re going to get back to some of that stuff,” added Del Rio.
With Del Rio adding more input on defense and an energetic coach with a new philosophy, Jacksonville’s defense will certainly have an insurgence of energy. New additions will likely help, but the Jaguars are also hoping that the addition by subtraction theory might work as well.
Del Rio talks defense with Nelson (Getty Images)
Last season, Mike Peterson and Drayton Florence were expected to be major contributors but neither came close to meeting expectations and are now both gone. Tony McDaniel battled injuries through the year, and Gerald Sensabaugh didn’t necessarily make the most of his starting opportunity (despite solid numbers), and now both are subsequently playing elsewhere as well.
Moving aside players that didn’t fit in Jacksonville’s scheme, the team will move forward with some young players that will hopefully rejuvenate the defense. Rookies like Terrance Knighton and Derek Cox will be expected to make immediate impacts.
While some holes still need to be filled, the team is apparently making strides on defense by combining youth, speed, and Del Rio’s presence. If these changes help, the Jaguars might make the leap back towards the league’s elite defenses.
For more, go to: JagNation.com