Tashaun Gipson is ready to lead the defense

This offseason, the Jaguars’ have added a ton of talent to the defensive side of the ball.  General manager Dave Caldwell and co. had one of the best drafts in the league, according to multiple experts.  The team also added DL Malik Jackson, CB Prince Amukamura, and FS Tashaun Gipson through free agency.

Through the first 3 seasons of Gus Bradley’s tenure as head coach, the Jaguars have put together a 12-36 record; in other words, they’ve won 1 out of every 4 games that they play in.  Granted, Bradley and Caldwell showed up and had to turn over a disastrous roster that was put together by the preceding GM, Gene Smith.

When Bradley came over from the Seattle Seahawks, he brought with him a unique defensive scheme.  The problem was that he didn’t have the personnel to plug into the scheme.  The team didn’t possess a safety that can fly around in single-high coverage.  There weren’t any physical corners to slow down and bully opposing receivers.  There sure as heck weren’t any play-making pass rushers to put some pressure on opposing quarterbacks.  All of these problems may have been solved with the offseason, though.

Malik Jackson seems to be the big fish that the Jaguars’ front office reeled in.  He did, after all, sign a 6-year, $90-million deal with $42-million guaranteed.  But the addition I’m most excited about is our new free safety. That’s right, Tashaun Gipson could be the piece that brings this entire defense together.

There was a specific play during OTA’s that drew widespread praise of the team’s new defensive back.  The offense was working on a red zone play, and Bortles fired a pass to the corner of the end zone.  Gipson flew across the field and was able to intercept Bortles’ pass, something that defensive coordinator Todd Wash says he hasn’t seen from the team in recent years.

Here’s Gipson on the scheme:

They let me go back there in the middle of the field and play football.  That’s one of the things that I pride myself on. I feel like I’m the best back there. They’ve been allowing me to do that but also play within the scheme.

One of the many benefits of having Gipson helping over the top is that Jonathan Cyprien, the 4th-year safety, will be able to play a lot closer to the line of scrimmage.  Cyprien has been viewed as somewhat of a liability in pass coverage his first 3 seasons.  Gipson spoke about playing with some of the league’s best strong safeties, T.J. Ward and Donte Whitner.  He mentioned that once Cyprien gets more comfortable with the scheme, he should blossom into a player of their caliber.  It’s a little bit of a stretch to imagine Cyprien becoming one of the elite safeties in the league, but it goes to show the sense of optimism that the team has this year.



Dante Fowler Jr., the LEO we need

One of the many exciting things to look forward to this season is the addition of some pass rush. Dante Fowler was drafted last year to solve the problems that Jacksonville has had since the days of Reggie Hayward and John Henderson.

Defensive coordinator Todd Wash has claimed that Fowler is more explosive than anyone in the organization foresaw him being.  And while they limit his reps early in the offseason, you kind of get the feeling that he is going to be a star in Gus Bradley’s system.  The Jaguars have lacked an intimidating pass rusher for years, but this kid could be the answer.

Of course, the massive free agent addition of Malik Jackson will help generate some interior pass rush. The two together could help transform this squad into an entirely different defensive unit.  Cornerback Prince Amukamura stated that the front four and playmakers in the secondary are like nothing he’s ever seen in his 5-year career.

There’s plenty of reason to believe this unit can transform from one of the worst defenses in 2015 to a respectable group this season. Fowler is going to be one of the main cogs that either helps grow this defense or sets it back.  Let’s just keep our fingers crossed for the former and not the latter.