To say the 2019 season was an absolute disappointment for the Jacksonville Jaguars is an understatement.
The team lost their high-priced free-agent quarterback Nick Foles in the first quarter of the first game. Later, they shipped off the face of the franchise cornerback Jalen Ramsey, because he got his feelings hurt. Finally, Tom Coughlin was relieved of his duties as Executive Vice President of Football Operations.
However, none of these were the biggest disappointment for the Jaguars. It was the defense.
A unit that sparked the previous two years finishing in the top six. The defense was the team’s identity and even had a self-proclaimed nickname.
But in 2019, the team lost that identity. They lost their calling card while giving up 24.8 points per game. And it came down crashing hard. As the ranking fell all the way to 21st in the league. Perhaps the two most glaring statistics were the defense surrendering 5.1 yards per rushing attempt and allowing 41.58 percent for third-down conversion percentage.
Sure, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus was placed on injured reserve in October with a core muscle injury. But a defense yielding five yards a tote is comparable to a high school football defense. Worst of all the defense could not tackle on a consistent basis.
Heading into the off-season, the Jaguars’ front office finds themselves in a financial abyss. After handing out inexplicable contracts they have some work to do the next few months to clear money if they want free agents. However, if the front office can manipulate the roster they should purse two free agents that will surely steady the ship on defense.
Linebacker Cory Littleton
How do you combat missed tackles? You sign the NFL’s highest-rated tackler, Cory Littleton from the Los Angeles Rams. The polished 26-year old is entering his prime in his fifth year. Also, he has become a tackling machine.
After shining on special teams for the Rams early in his career, Littleton proved himself as a reliable every-down linebacker in 2019. This past season, he played over 94 percent of the defensive snaps for the Rams.
According to Pro Football Reference, he only missed five tackles on 139 attempts in 2019. Most impressive. Granted, he played behind All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald in a 3-4 defensive scheme. However, his skill set translates to a 4-3 scheme if the Jaguars continue with that route.
Undoubtedly, Littleton’s price tag went up this past season. But the Rams have several players’ wallets to fill on both sides of the ball. Therefore, they will most likely let Littleton seek free agency. Littleton will be a sought after free agent by a handful of teams in the months to come. Why not Jacksonville?
Cornerback James Bradberry
The void left in the secondary after the Jalen Ramsey trade in mid-October was evident as the season progressed. Inexperience and lack of talent in the defensive backfield led to opponents prolonging drives. Thus landing the Jaguars in the middle of the pack (16th) in the league for passing defense.
The Jaguars have an opportunity to get better at the position via free agency with 26-year-old cornerback James Bradberry from the Carolina Panthers. In four seasons with the Panthers, Bradberry snared eight interceptions and tallied 47 pass deflections. He has earned the respect that comes with being a number one cornerback. Now he wants the money associated with that title. And he will get it somewhere.
However, there is a coaching change in Carolina, and with that comes the possibility of freeing up Bradberry. Once again the Jaguars’ front office will need to get creative financially. Anticipate a decision on cornerback A.J. Bouye‘s future this offseason. With or without Bouye, Bradberry would fill in nicely.
Last Word on Bradberry and Littleton
The Jaguars defense needs some impact players. Littleton and Bradberry should be considerations. Despite the financial constraints, the Jaguars roster needs to be overhauled in order to compete in 2020. Time for the front office to crunch some numbers to free up the cash. It’s also time to restructure contracts and make cuts for the franchise’s future well-being. They got the team in this hole, now get them out.