Jaguars Mailbag: What Happens If Ryan Nielsen Fixes the Defense?

This week we take questions on Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen, the offensive line and more.
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen coaches during an organized team activity Tuesday, May 28, 2024 at EverBank Stadium’s Miller Electric Center in Jacksonville, Fla.
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen coaches during an organized team activity Tuesday, May 28, 2024 at EverBank Stadium’s Miller Electric Center in Jacksonville, Fla. / Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA
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Throughout the offseason, we will be taking questions on the biggest questions facing the Jacksonville Jaguars.

You can submit your questions every week by tweeting them to the Jaguars On SI Twitter handle or by submitting them here.

This week we take questions on the offensive line, Ryan Nielsen and more.

Q: Considering the considerable injuries along the offensive line last season, what are the chances the Jaguars keep 10 o-linemen this season? I see at LT Cam Robinson and Walker Little, at RT Anton Harrison and Javon Foster, at LG Ezra Cleveland and Tyler Shatley, at RG Brandon Scherff and Cooper Hodges, and at C Mitch Morse and Luke Fortner. Shatley can play center and I saw a photo recently of Hodges lined up at center. If the team only keeps eight for the OL as in seasons past, which players are most likely destined for the practice squad and thereby most vulnerable to being claimed by another NFL team? Who would the Jags be willing to lose by not keeping 10?

A: I think you have to consider the five starters safe. After that, Javon Foster is safe as a fourth round pick. Walker Little is safe. Luke Fortner is likely safe barring some major surprise. This would indicate Tyler Shatley and Cooper Hodges are the two who you maybe have to watch. It wouldn't be a massive shock if they carried 10 after how last season went, though.

Q: Will there be a surprise cut or trade on the oline? Seems like we are pretty stacked especially on the IOL with guys that wouldn't stay on the practice squad

A: I don't think so. I don't see how the Jaguars would see much benefit in trading Cam Robinson or Walker Little unless they are blown away by an offer, and I don't imagine any team would make that kind of offer. The Jaguars need the offensive line depth after how last season went, and the truth of the matter is that most of their roster pieces have more value to them than they would to any other team.

Q: What happens if the Jaguars defense turns elite? Is Ryan Nielsen a head coach?

A: I think there is a good chance. There is maybe less of a chance than if he was an offensive coordinator, but five of this year's head coaching hires are defensive coaches. Head coach hires are much more about leadership than specific expertise on one side of the ball, but turning the Jaguars into a top defense obviously wouldn't hurt Nielsen's case. I think he will be a head coach in the NFL. Maybe it is next season, maybe it isn't, but I do think it happens eventually.

Q: Far too early to tell, obviously, but is there a world where both Cephus and Washington make the 53?

A: There is always a world. There are a lot of different ways the Jaguars' 53-man roster shape up. But regardless of whether they carry six or seven receivers, any receiver who isn't a starter will have to provide special teams value. We know Washington can do that, so that is something Cephus will have to prove.

Q: In the spirit of the summer games, who is your gold, silver, bronze for worst NFL takes?

A: I am anti-Bo Nix enthusiasm, Bryce Young optimism and Geno Smith doubters.

Q: Are they going to sign more pass-rushers?

A: Never say never, but I am starting to think no. I was always of the opinion that the Jaguars would assess their roster after the offseason workout program and then go from there. And frankly, nothing that happened over the course of OTAs or minicamp made it seem like the Jaguars were looking for answers. Trevis Gipson and Yasir Abdullah figure to factor into the edge rotation, and the Jaguars seem content with this.

Q: I know the offense/Trevor took a lot of the heat for how the season ended last year, but after rewatching a few of the last games, I feel the defense was more to blame. John, in your opinion, what happened to the D in the last 6 games? Who was to blame for that uncharacteristic run D? I don’t recall any significant injuries and Travon actuality came on late.

A: I really don't know if there is one singular answer. The unit played legitimately inspired football over the first half of the season, specializing in turnovers and run defense. The turnovers dried up in the second half of the season, which explains the dip in pass defense. I am not sure there will ever be a real answer for why the run defense fell off a cliff, especially in Week 18. It just looked like a disjointed and exasperated unit by that point.

Q: If Campbell gets extended as well, is this Baalke’s most successful offseason?

A: I think you can make a case for it. The 2022 offseason will always be looked on fondley even if not all of the pieces from that team remain. While not every free agent Baalke and the Jaguars pursued that offseason worked out, the Jaguars set the tone for their playoff run and added core pieces of the roster like Christian Kirk, Evan Engram and Foyesade Oluokun.

With that said, a Campbell extension would mean three draft picks and building blocks signed in one offseason. That is something the Jaguars haven't done in a long time, and the Josh Allen and Trevor Lawrence deals deserve praise and distinction. If signings like Arik Armstead, Gabe Davis, Mitch Morse, Darnell Savage and others age well, this offseason could overlap 2022.

Q: John, how are ya doing buddy?

A: I am doing well. Thank you for asking.

John Shipley


John Shipley has been covering the Jacksonville Jaguars as a beat reporter and publisher of Jaguar Report since 2019. Previously, he covered UCF's undefeated season as a beat reporter for NSM.Today, covered high school prep sports in Central Florida, and covered local sports and news for the Palatka Daily News. Follow John Shipley on Twitter at @_john_shipley.