The Jacksonville Jaguars saw their 2019 first round pick Josh Allen set a rookie record last season. Now with two first round picks taking the field for the 2020 season, could history repeat itself?
The second of those first round picks, K’Lavon Chaisson, was taken with the No. 20 pick overall. He’s a hybrid defensive player with the ability to play defensive end and/or outside linebacker. As of time of publishing, the Jaguars didn’t even have a position listed for Chaisson on the roster. There’s still plenty of possibilities as for how he can line up this fall and defensive coordinator Todd Wash is keeping his options on in regards to the LSU star.
With that being said, Chaisson’s strength could actually hinder him when it comes to possibly breaking any rookie records. When you play more than one position, or move around, it’s hard to set a record when doing so typically requires focus in one area. But for the sake of argument, let’s examine the records Chaisson could be chasing this season.
The Jaguars rookie sack record has actually been broken twice in the past four seasons. After standing for years at seven, set by Tony Brackens in 1996, it was broken by Yannick Ngakoue in 2016 with eight sacks. Then Allen, the Jags pick at seventh overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, set it again with 10.5 sacks in the season that led to him being the first Jacksonville rookie ever sent to the Pro Bowl. During their rookie seasons, both Ngakoue and Allen became the fourth and fifth players respectively to tally a sack in four straight games.
Chaisson’s sophomore season at LSU was cut short by injury, but his junior year—as the Tigers completed a perfect season in route to a National Championship—Chaisson accumulated 6.5 sacks in the single season. Both Ngakoue and Allen broke the record from a defensive end position that Chaisson will most likely be playing as well. If Wash has Chaisson play the role the way he did in college, he will drop back into coverage as well. This takes away some of the opportunity to rush the quarterback. But it’s supplemented by the relative ease with which the OLB/DE position can both blitz and rush from edge.
Ngakoue broke the record while starting all but one game his first season but Allen—the former Bednarik Award winner in college—broke the record starting only four in the 16 game season. With Ngakoue and Allen seemingly firmly in place (Ngakoue has asked for a trade but not received one) then it’s unlikely Chaisson becomes a starter his rookie year. however, as Allen demonstrated, having that extra playing time isn’t always necessary.
As an outside linebacker, Chaisson has two separate points of access for tackles, but the chances of anyone breaking Brian Schwartz’s record from 1995 is slim to none. Schwartz had 161 total tackles that season. Instead, Chaisson has a much better shot at the rookie record for takeaways. He will likely be competing with fellow rookie and first round pick C.J. Henderson in that regard. The rookie record for takeaways is five, a three way tie between Derek Cox (2009), Reggie Nelson (2007) and Fernando Bryant (1999).
But where the corner Henderson will be relying most likely on interceptions outside, Chaisson can put himself into position on the edge for both interceptions—likely on tipped balls or lame duck passes—and fumble recoveries around the line of scrimmage, increasing his chances. However, this will have to be a greater focus for the rookie. Chaisson had four passes defended in college but no interceptions and one forced fumble but no fumble recovers.
While the Jaguars don’t have rookie stats relating to tackles for loss, Allen did record 11 last year. That is a category in which Chaisson could very likely pass his predecessor thanks to his tenaciousness behind the line of scrimmage. His final year in Baton Rouge, Chaisson had 13.5 tackles for loss.
As mentioned, some of the aspects that could be a bonus for Chaisson on the field could also hurt his standings in the rookie records. His flexibility at the position will keep him from focusing in his skill set on one area. And the depth in front of him will keep the rookie off the field more as he learns. Although Wash did say on Friday he plans on both Chaisson and Henderson contributing on a great number of snaps.
If K’Lavon Chaisson’s presence on the edge of the defensive line makes him a multi-tool player though, the rookie records will likely stand another year and that will be fine with the Jacksonville Jaguars.