The Jaguars remain one of the better defenses in the NFL even with Telvin Smith out for the season. Lets see if they have what it takes to be feared in 2019.
2018 was a lost season for the Jacksonville Jaguars. They went from losing the AFC Championship game to the Patriots by a mere four points in 2017 to a train wreck with essentially the same squad. With a 5-11 record in 2018, the Jaguars missed the playoffs by a mile after having possible Super Bowl aspirations.
The defense is still in great shape as that was never the issue…cough cough… Blake Bortles. The Jaguars defense has one of the deepest defensive lines in football. They also have two high level cornerbacks manning the outside. The linebackers are a solid group but have fallen into a bit of a conundrum. That conundrum is Telvin Smith. When healthy Smith is a top 5 line backer but he decided to take 2019 off from football for his family and mental health, and more power to him. Where does this leave the defense? Lets take a look here as I break it down in tiers.
Tier 1 – Draft Targets
Telvin Smith – Linebacker
2018 Stats: 134 tackles (100 solo), four tackles for a loss, one sack, two passes defended, two interceptions, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one touchdown.
Yes Telvin Smith is missing the entire 2019 NFL season. Does that mean he is not a draft target? No, he needs to still be on everybody’s radar. Smith has made no mention of retirement, he has only said so far that he is going to take the 2019 season off. Yes this comes with some risk that he may just call it quits but there have been no signs of this yet. Again, nobody should be upset with Smith for taking time off, we play fantasy football, this is for his health.
Jags LB Telvin Smith won’t play football in the 2019 season: “At this time I must take time away from this game & get my world in order” pic.twitter.com/3L4Vdq3vME
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) May 9, 2019
If, and hopefully when, Telvin Smith returns to football for the 2020 season he will re-enter the conversation with the other elite LBs in the league. He averages just over 117 tackles per season and has nine interceptions, three returned for touchdowns, and 7.5 sacks in his five seasons in the league. Now is your buy-low window, just do not be the guy to sell low.
2019 Projected Stats: Mental peace and family happiness.
Calais Campbell– Defensive End
2018 Stats: 72 tackles (53 solo), 20 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks, two passes defended, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Calais Campbell is entering his 12th season in the NFL and his third with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He seems to be getting better as he ages like a fine wine. Campbell has had arguably the two best seasons in his career since joining the Jaguars. Last season he set new career highs in total tackles (72), solo tackles (53), and tackles for a loss (20). He also had his second highest sack total of his career in 2018 with 10.5.
Calais Campbell is one of the best edge defenders, if not the best, against the run. Here is a graphic from Pro Football Focus that shows just how dominant he is:
Calais Campbell led the way in run stops among edge defenders – and it wasn't really close. pic.twitter.com/8rM9vYW8tD
— PFF (@PFF) February 20, 2019
Campbell is taking on a leadership role this season teaching new rookie first round pick Josh Allen. Some may be worried that Allen will eat into Campbell’s snap share. If anything, I think Campbell will shift inside during passing downs while Ngakoue and Allen line up on the edge to pass rush. Campbell may see some regression this season as father time will have to catch up with him at some point, but he is still a high draft asset.
2019 Projected Stats: 62 total tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, 8.5 sacks, five passes defended and two forced fumbles.
Myles Jack – Linebacker
2018 Stats: 107 tackles (75 solo), one tackle for a loss, 2.5 sacks, one pass defended, one interception, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and a touchdown.
Myles Jack set career highs in tackles, sacks and interceptions and yet still somehow seemed to be a bit of a disappointment. As a rookie, Jack was regarded as one of the most talented prospects in a long time, just with knee concerns. When he dropped all the way to the second round the Jags got a serious steal. He was a bit player his rookie season and played full-time strongside linebacker in 2017. Then the team moved on from Paul Posluszny and Jack moved to middle linebacker where most thought he would put up jaw dropping numbers.
Yes he had a solid season but not up to par for expectations. This season the expectations may be even higher for Jack. Running mate Telvin Smith and his 130 plus tackles are going on a hiatus this season and Jack should be the main beneficiary. With Jack being the best linebacker on the team now, and a former safety, he may be tasked with dropping in coverage more. He has shown flashes of solid coverage ability like you see here:
Myles Jack INT pic.twitter.com/QKbYGa3TB5
— Carlton (@SlopingGiraffe) January 14, 2018
With Smith out, and Jack running the defense, his numbers should go up this season. His playmaking numbers should increase this season as well as he should set some serious career highs.
2019 Projected Stats: 128 total tackles, six tackles for a loss, three sacks, six passes defended, two interceptions, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Tier 2 – Depth Players
Yannick Ngakoue – Defensive End
2018 Stats: 28 tackles (25 solo), 13 tackles for a loss, 9.5 sacks and one pass defended.
The situation with Yannick Ngakoue was getting a little dicey for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Luckily, it looks like he is ending his holdout and is reporting to training camp. Nobody is denying that Ngakoue is a freak off the edge but getting to the quarterback is all he seems to do. Ngakoue has never had more than 30 total tackles in a season and he has never missed a game in his three-year career. He averages less than two tackles per game.
He does have 29.5 career tackles and half of his total tackles last season were behind the line, but I need to see more to make him one of my draft targets. His athleticism and speed burst are real intriguing though, watch here:
— No Fly Zone #DUUUVAL 👑 (@JaxJaguar95) August 5, 2019
If Ngakoue could get more involved in setting the edge in run defense or raise his sack total with the upper echelon of the position group he could jump a tier. The Jaguars also added rookie Josh Allen to the group which could cut into Ngakoue’s numbers. You need to temper expectations for more of a breakout for Ngakoue.
2019 Projected Stats: 33 total tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, and nine sacks.
Ronnie Harrison – Safety
2018 Stats: 32 tackles (24 solo), three tackles for a loss, one sack, three passes defended and an interception. (14 games with eight starts)
Ronnie Harrison showed flashes of potential last season for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He provided a little bit of everything, from volume tackling for the position, blitzing and coverage skills. The Jags have moved on from last year’s safety group and Harrison is going to be the starting strong safety for the team. Harrison has been said to be winning his camp battles all training camp with his coverage skills. Watch here as he makes a beautiful play on the ball on a pass intended for Hayden Hurst:
Hayden Hurst vs. Ronnie Harrison pic.twitter.com/ZV7Ah09bxr
— Kyle P. Barber (@BB_KylePBarber) August 5, 2019
Harrison is earning the trust of everybody on the team and many think he can make great strides this season. With Telvin Smith gone for the year I expect Harrison to pick up some of those vacated tackles. Expect a big year from Ronnie Harrison.
2019 Projected Stats: 95 total tackles, four tackles for a loss, eight passes defended, one interception and two fumble recoveries.
Tier 3 – Rotational Players
Josh Allen – Defensive End
2018 College Stats: 88 tackles (56 solo), 21.5 tackles for a loss, 17 sacks, four passes defended, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Josh Allen has displayed the potential to be a tier one target. He is a top of the line dynasty asset, he just probably will not do much for 2019. Allen is a battle tested and proven pass rusher. He played in the SEC and produced 21.5 tackles for a loss and 17 sacks in 13 games last season. He should add to one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. Calais Campbell seems to have taken Josh Allen under his wing in training camp giving him pointers:
Been a theme all training camp
— Ben Murphy (@BenMurphyTV) July 31, 2019
If Allen can take his talent and learn from a professional like Campbell then the sky is the limit. One thing that the Jacksonville Jaguars should do is utilize Allen as a linebacker. Even though he was one of the best pass rushers in the nation, he covers tight ends very well. Watch here as he runs with athletic tight end and fellow rookie Jace Sternberger and makes the beautiful pass deflection:
One of my favorite plays of the college football season:
Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen running with TE Jace Sternberger and breaking up the pass
Allen has the top pass-rush grade in the nation and he's dropped into coverage 101 times this year pic.twitter.com/NKl7fldlS2
— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) October 29, 2018
Allen can be a very versatile player, it’s up to the Jacksonville Jaguars how they intend to use him.
2019 Projected Stats: 27 total tackles, eight tackles for a loss, five sacks, three passes defended and two forced fumbles.
Jalen Ramsey – Cornerback
2018 Stats: 65 tackles (62 solo), two tackles for a loss, 13 passes defended and three interceptions.
Jalen Ramsey has turned into a legitimate lock down corner in the NFL. He is one of the biggest trash talkers in the league as well but he backs it up. Ramsey is one of the most aggressive and best tackling corners in the NFL. He rarely needs help finishing tackles as only 24 of his 193 tackles were assisted. Ramsey graded out as one of the best corners per Pro Football Focus:
THE TOP-10 CORNERBACKS! ⬇️https://t.co/u2XEBfrinO
— PFF (@PFF) August 2, 2019
Normally in fantasy football cornerbacks are not draft targets unless your league has a designation specifically for cornerbacks. And normally lock down corners are not the corners you want to draft because they are not targeted as often. Luckily for Ramsey, he has A.J. Bouye on the opposite side of the field. Bouye in his own right was a #1 corner in his time and makes it hard to just switch off as he usually has no problem locking down #2 receivers. With Ramsey on the #1 receivers he still sees the targets and has great potential to make plays. He is a CB1 and DB2 for fantasy purposes.
2019 Projected Stats: 65 total tackles, one tackle for a loss, 18 passes defended and three interceptions.
Team IDP Sleeper
Quincy Williams – Linebacker
2018 College Stats: 111 tackles (78 solo), 9.5 tackles for a loss, one sack, four passes defended, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.
Quincy Williams was a surprise 3rd round pick in the 2018 draft for the Jacksonville Jaguars out of Murray St. He is the older brother of the #3 overall pick Quinnen Williams. Quincy Williams was just in the middle of impressing all of his coaches and likely filling in at weakside linebacker for Telvin Smith when he went down. In camp, Williams partially tore his meniscus and should be out 4-6 weeks. The coaching staff seems to believe that he will be ready for the start of the season.
Coach Marrone loves the speed of Quincy Williams as he talks about him here:
See ball, Hit ball!!! https://t.co/DeXQd4vFyG
— Quincy Williams (@quincywilliams_) July 30, 2019
If Williams can come back healthy for the start of the season he could be in line for a big fantasy line. Filling in for Smith gives him 100 plus tackle opportunity and the rookie will likely try to prove his worth. Keep Williams on your radar.
2019 Projected Stats: 97 total tackles, six tackles for a loss, two sacks, five passes defended and a forced fumble.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are a highly productive NFL defense and fantasy defense. They have three top-tier assets in linebackers Telvin Smith and Myles Jack as well as a top-tier defensive end in Calais Campbell. With tempered expectations from Yannick Ngakoue being anything more than a sacks specialist leaves him in tier two for me along with Ronnie Harrison who I need to see a full season out of.
Tier three has one of the best corners in the league in Jalen Ramsey as well as rookie Josh Allen. Allen is a better asset than tier three but with the limited snap potential to start his career he sits here. Quincy Williams is the intriguing sleeper on the team as I believe he fills in for Telvin smith this season and if Smith’s “retirement” goes on for longer than the 2019 season he could be an excellent asset.
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