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Jaguars Mailbag: Turning the Focus to Thibodeaux, Elam and the Draft

The Jacksonville Jaguars are sitting at 0-4 and have little chance to climb into the playoff race, leading to the bulk of this week's mailbag questions focusing on the NFL Draft.

Each week during this year's season, Jaguar Report will take Jacksonville Jaguars-related questions from our readers across social media and answer them in a question-and-answer format, giving readers a chance to have their voices heard.

You can submit your questions every week by tweeting them to the Jaguar Report Twitter handle or by submitting them here.

This week, we take questions on Urban Meyer, the NFL Draft and the Jaguars' defense (or lack thereof). 

Q: What is the role you see Marvin Jones playing for the rest of the season?

A: More or less the same one he has been. I don't think DJ Chark's injury will lead to a *much* larger volume share for Jones considering he has already seen 22.6% of the Jaguars' targets in the passing game this season. Jones is the Jaguars' chains mover and the receiver who Trevor Lawrence has shown instant chemistry with, dating all the way back to preseason and training camp. Lawrence trusts Jones immensely, but still look for him to be the Jaguars' Z receiver and possession target. Jones' 11.6 average depth of target shows what his role in the offense is, and that shouldn't change with Chark out.

Q: Does the defense just need time, or is it truly in need of another off-season?

A: A little of both, but my true feelings are that the Jaguars simply don't have enough talent on defense. They have one proven starter at outside cornerback, a linebacker duo that hasn't played well against the run or the pass in part because they are starting a journeyman middle linebacker, a pass-rush that can't affect the quarterback, and a safety room that has been perfectly fine, but far from extraordinary. Until the Jaguars find suitable replacements for Chris Claybrooks, K'Lavon Chaisson, Damien Wilson, Jihad Ward and several others, the unit will continue to look like a bottom-tier one. Simply put, a lot of those players wouldn't have major roles on most other NFL rosters, but for the Jaguars' defense they are all massive contributors. 

Q: How many years out from a winning record are we?

A: Two. This year's lack of development on the field certainly hasn't helped, with the defense not looking any better than a year ago and the offense likely to change quite a bit entering the offseason due to expiring contracts across the offensive line and with DJ Chark. The Jaguars simply haven't taken any positive steps forward this year that suggests they are one offseason away from flipping the switch, even if they have seemingly figured out the toughest part of the equation by finding a potential franchise quarterback in Trevor Lawrence. Still, other than Lawrence's development, this year seems a bit wasted. This was the year the Jaguars were supposed to learn how to win while also taking some growing pains lumps. Now, it looks like that year will be in 2022. 

Q: I saw we picked up Smallwood, presumably as that smaller, agile receiving back that we recruited Etienne to be. What are the chances he makes it off the practice squad and onto the active roster?

A: I don't think the chances are very significant unless the Jaguars eventually see injuries pile up at running back. The Jaguars had to sign a running back in some facet following Devine Ozigbo signing to the New Orleans Saints' active roster this week. Like Ozigbo this season, Smallwood can be considered a candidate to remain on the practice squad unless one of James Robinson, Carlos Hyde or Dare Ogunbowake misses any games with injuries. The Jaguars, at least to this point, haven't attempted to recreate the Etienne role in any way, so I don't think that changes because of Smallwood.

 Q: You found a time machine that takes you back to January of 2021. You're also Shad Khan. Knowing what you know now, who do you hire as head coach?

A: Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. The entire 2021 coaching cycle was an odd one because seemingly every candidate was a new face who was attempting to become a first-time head coach, at least at the NFL level. And among all of those coaches, it is Daboll who seems most equipped from a play-calling and management perspective to lead a team, especially a team with a young quarterback. Daboll has done wonders with Josh Allen's development and the Bills have been frequently one of the most forward-thinking offenses under Daboll. He has the traits and the skills to develop a young quarterback like Lawrence, which few other coaching candidates last year could have said.

Q: If the Jags have the chance to take Stingley should they still take him? I'm concerned about his injury

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A: That depends where they are picking. If the Jaguars are picking No. 1 or No. 2 overall, taking a cornerback fresh off a foot injury would be a ... interesting pick, to say the least -- even with Stingley's obvious talent being added to the equation. But the closer the Jaguars get to pick No. 10, the more and more they should be interested in Stingley, who has the traits to be an elite cover man on the outside. That would be somewhat waving the white flag on Tyson Campbell's development, but that isn't enough of a reason to not select a cornerback as talented as Stingley.

Q: Drafting Kyle Hamilton in the Top 5 would be _______?

A: A bad idea. Kyle Hamilton is fantastic and is one of the best safety prospects to hit the college scene in a long, long time, but positional value has to come into play in the top-5. The Jaguars taking Hamilton would be a luxury pick for a team that badly can't afford to make one -- they simply have bigger needs across the roster than at safety. When picking this early in the draft, that trumps talent, even if only slightly. It is essentially the Kyle Pitts' question all over again. Hamilton is an elite talent, but the Jaguars taking him so early would be a strange decision.

Q: Besides being a Gator, would Elam be a good fit for Jacksonville since we desperately lack corner talent

A: I think so. Just from watching the Gators' defense this year, Kaiir Elam is arguably the most physical cornerback in all of college football. He has ball skills, tackles with serious intentions, and has the athletic profile to be a No. 1 cornerback. He looks like a future star at the NFL level, and there are few positions more important to find those players at than cornerback. Until the Jaguars get better at cornerback, they will continue to struggle to stop offenses. A talent like Elam would go a long way toward changing that.

Q: With Derek Stingley's injury, can you see him dropping to a second-round or how much will he drop?

A: It depends on the severity of his injury. If it is an injury that teams think can genuinely impact his rookie season and beyond, then it wouldn't be a shock to see him fall out of the first-round. We saw Caleb Farley go from top-10 pick to a mid-first round selection due to his own injury issues last year, but the talented cornerback was ultimately still able to hear his name called on Day 1. I expect the same to happen for Stingley unless his injury has serious long-term ramifications.

Q: Hey John, I understand the coaching staff wants to play the best offensive lineman but don't we need to see what we have in Walker Little soon? Do you think Cam will get traded by the deadline to a playoff team that needs offensive line help? I don't think we can go into the off-season not knowing what we have in Little.

A: I think the Jaguars badly need to see Walker Little play, and I think Little badly needs it as well. The Jaguars can't afford to enter 2022 without knowing if Little has at least a chance to be the future at left tackle. Cam Robinson is unlikely to return to Jacksonville in 2022, and with the season quickly getting out of hand, there is more than enough reasons for the Jaguars to put Little on the field as soon as they think he is ready. Little himself needs to be on the field, too, since he hasn't played in either of the previous two seasons. His entire game experience to this point has been three preseason games against mostly backup defenders. If he is entering his second year in the NFL without any real game experience in three seasons, then what do you truly do at that point?

Q: If the Jags ultimately get the #1 pick, would you prefer Evan Neal or offensive playmaker or Kayvon Thibodeaux?

A: Thibodeaux. Protecting Trevor Lawrence is paramount and Evan Neal has freakish talent, but Kayvon Thibodeaux is a defensive unicorn. Thibodeaux has the traits to be a terror on the defensive line for the next plus-decade, with the explosion and athleticism to blow by tackles and the size and strength to run through and over them. The Jaguars need a No. 1 pass-rusher (last in the NFL in sacks) and right now it doesn't appear they have one. Putting Thibodeaux across from Josh Allen could get the best out of Allen and be the first major step toward fixing the Jaguars' defensive infrastructure. 

Q: WIth DJ Chark out for the year, do you expect Tyron Johnson to get a larger share of snaps than Tavon Austin the rest of the way?

A: One would think so, right? But on Thursday afternoon, Jaguars offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell didn't seem overly eager to give Tyron Johnson an expanded role in the offense, at least not yet. There is no real reason for Tavon Austin to get starter's snaps, especially on the outside, but I think it is more likely that him and Jamal Agnew play snaps than Johnson at this point. 

“We’re working [in] that direction. I’d love to see him get out there," Bevell said on Thursday. "We continue to press him. I tell these guys the practice field is where you have to make it, so he has to continue to work out there to get more opportunities.”