NFL DRAFT: Jags turn to draft for final pieces of D overhaul
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Jacksonville's latest defensive overhaul is nearly complete.
After spending more than $214 million - about $100 million guaranteed - on six defensive starters in free agency the past two years, the Jaguars expect to use next week's NFL draft to add the final pieces to a unit general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley believe will be the best they've assembled in their four seasons.
Still, no one should be surprised to see the Jags use the majority of their eight picks on that side of the ball. After all, Jacksonville ranked 31st in points and 24th in yards allowed in 2015.
Bradley fired defensive coordinator Bob Babich after the season, promoted D-line coach Todd Wash, and hired veteran Monte Kiffin to help get the unit turned around.
Jacksonville also added defensive tackle Malik Jackson (five years, $85.5 million), free safety Tashaun Gipson (five years, $36 million) and cornerback Prince Amukamara (one year, $5.5 million) in free agency.
''It's exciting to see the organization build, get the pieces we need, and with elite guys that have a lot of talent that can really make an impact right away,'' veteran linebacker Paul Posluszny said this week.
Jackson, Gipson and Amukamara join another three defensive additions from 2015: end Jared Odrick (five years, $42.5 million), cornerback Davon House (four years, $24.5 million), and linebacker Dan Skuta (five years, $20.5 million).
Throw in last year's first-round draft pick, pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr., who missed his entire rookie season following a knee injury, and the Jaguars expect to have at least four new defensive starters in 2016. The draft could produce another. At the very least, it should provide the Jags with more competition and some much-needed depth on that side of the ball.
Jacksonville has the fifth overall selection, picking in the top 10 for the ninth consecutive year and in the top five for the fifth straight year, and could go in just about any direction.
With quarterbacks expected to go 1-2 for the second straight year, the Jaguars are sure to get one of the top three defensive prospects. Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey, UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa and Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner are among those widely projected as top selections.
Regardless of who lands with the Jaguars, he will be part of a make-or-break season for the defense - and maybe for Caldwell and Bradley. Jacksonville is 12-36 during Bradley's tenure.
''We've been fortunate, we feel like, because a lot of situations in the NFL, a lot of organizations could've said, `Three years, you didn't get the job done. Time to blow it up and start all over,''' Posluszny said. ''We're very fortunate that that's not the case here and the organization is building things slowly, properly, so that we'll have success for years to come.
''But now it's time to see some results. We feel like, as players, we need to play to a higher level, play to the standards that we want and the standards that everybody wants and see some results on Sunday.''
Some other things to know about the Jaguars heading into the draft:
TOP 10 AGAIN: The Jaguars have little to show for their top-10 draft run, maybe a big reason they haven't made the playoffs since 2007. Defensive end Derrick Harvey (2008) is out of the league. Left tackle Eugene Monroe (2009) and quarterback Blaine Gabbert (2011) have been traded. Receiver Justin Blackmon (2012) is suspended. Left tackle Luke Joeckel (2013) is competing for a starting job, and Fowler (2015) is recovering from a knee injury.
SEC SELECTIONS: After going four years (2009-12) without drafting a player from the Southeastern Conference, the Jaguars have selected seven from the football power league in the last three years. The team's first three picks in 2015 were Fowler, Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon and South Carolina guard A.J. Cann.
ROOKIE CAMP: The Jaguars are making some tweaks to their rookie minicamp next month, including eliminating 11-on-11 drills. Fowler tore a knee ligament in the first hour of the camp and missed his entire rookie season.
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