Like the third track of Sgt. Pepper, you want to believe the Jaguars’ defense is getting better (all the time) because General Manager Dave Caldwell exclusively picked defensive players in the draft. I want to make it clear I have no idea whatsoever how this unit is going to look like because Gus Bradley fired defensive coordinator Bob Babich Jan. 5 and replaced him with defensive line/run game coordinator (?) Todd Wash. After all, there had to be a scapegoat for the last season didn’t there?

Last season, the Jaguars defense hampered the team with its laughable inability to stop the pass (tied for 29th) and getting to the quarterback (sacks, tied for 20). They were average against the run (15th), but taken in context, this is the Jaguars, so they were great against the run.

When you look at every player on the defense and you can say to yourself, “that player is above replacement-level to moderately good,” what’s the issue? Do they not work as a collective? Is it something to do with game planning? Are there not enough (summons the voice of an old high school football coach), “LOCKER ROOM LEADERS?!?”

Caldwell invested a Scrooge McDuck money vault into this defense to make up for his drafting deficiencies. One wonders if there are too many new faces to make a coherent group.

Defensive Line

Part of the problem was vaunted 2015 third overall pick Dante Fowler blowing out his knee in the first practice of the season.

When he isn’t fighting players in practice, or being a bystander, he’s a walking quote-dispenser: 

Jared Odrick, Tyson Alualu and Sen’derrick Marks fill up the rest of the defensive ends, and all I can tell you is that they are warm bodies. Who am I kidding, if they’re on the Patriots, they make the Pro Bowl every year.

Defensive tackle Malik Jackson is the obligatory Player from Great Team Signs for the Money with Bad Team free agent signing. The money ($90 million over six years, $42 million guaranteed) backs that up. Did I mention he played in a different scheme with the Broncos? 

Despite what social media says, the Jaguars did not sign Olivier Vernon. The other defensive tackle is former Buccaneer Roy Miller, who I can say is consistent. He played on the Greg Schiano-era Tampa Bay team, and that’s about all you can ask.

Oh yeah, and the Jaguars had a workout with world’s worst person, Greg Hardy.

Grade: B

Linebackers

The starters consist of the energetic and accountable Telvin Smith (who is featured in our Sports Issue), Paul Posluszny and Dan Skuta. Smith is coming into a contract year and Posluszny struggles in coverage. Skuta didn’t drink responsibly this off-season, he allegedly “pushed a woman in the face and caused her head to hit a glass window”  because she wouldn’t give him her phone number. Wait, he didn’t get charged, nothing to see here.

Middle linebacker Myles Jack, another player drafted with known injury problems, is a versatile talent and one of the most-dominating defensive players in college the last three years. Jack is a tremendous athlete, but we don’t know how he’ll adapt to the NFL. Ryan Davis and Jordan Tripp round off a competent group of backups. Too bad they all got cut. Who’s left? Someone named Hayes Pullard. Great.

Grade: B-

Secondary

They were statistically one of the worst units in the league last season, but 5th overall pick and nutritionist Jalen Ramsey is here to bring balance and harmony:

Like Fowler, Ramsey injured himself almost immediately … I’m starting to think EverBank is turning into Pet Sematary or something.

Tavon House signed from the Packers last season and had one of the few positive impacts in the secondary. Tashaun Gipson ($35.5 million over five years) made his name with the Browns, which I’m unsure if it’s an insult or a compliment. Caldwell decided to give Prince Amukamara a shot on a one-year, prove-it deal. The Jaguars have five players in the secondary they drafted between 2013 and 2015, and none of them will start.

Grade: C+

Kicking!

I would respectfully insist you refrain from insults against kicker Jason Myers because extra points are hard now. He’s a decent kicker from deep and a nice man.

Grade: C+

Punting!

2012 third-round pick Bryan Anger left after three seasons. The logic for drafting him so high at the time sounded something like this, “He’s an ASSET. Drafting a punter in the third round is DISRUPTIVE.” Caldwell signed the Panthers punter, so maybe the success from a winning team will rub off.

Grade: B

Return(ing)

Ever since the NFL virtually made every kickoff a touchback, it’s irrelevant which fourth-string RB/WR returns kickoffs. The Jaguars have 12 total return touchdowns in 23 seasons.

Grade: C

Stray Thoughts

The Jags picked up a seemingly meaningless win last week over Cincinnati. Blake Bortles, with the enthusiasm of a possum getting crushed under a tire, dropped this moment of eloquence:

The titles of three Soundgarden albums: Ultramega OK, Superunknown and Down on the Upside, sum up exactly how I feel about the Jaguars’ defense.

Ever wondered about whether Jaguars’ tongues are actually blue? Take from it Yahoo Answers Intelligentsia:

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There you have it … life is a lie.

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