As has been addressed nauseam since last spring, the Jacksonville Jaguars boasted the youngest team in the NFL for the 2020 season. A bevy of free agent signings, free agent losses and 12 picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, all added up to the Jags fielding a roster of primarily guys on their rookie contracts. Veterans were few and far between, the silver lining being the team has room to grow.
With this in mind, we are going to go through each of the Jaguars' 12 draft picks from 2020 and examine the ups and downs of their rookie season.
Next up is defensive end, K’Lavon Chaisson. The LSU product was selected by the Jags in the first round, at No. 20 overall. It was a pick given to the club after trading Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams.
stats via Pro Football Focus
- 16 games (three starts)
- 19 tackles
- 1 pass defended
- 20 quarterback hurries
- Nine quarterback hits
- Seven quarterback knockdowns
- 29 quarterback pressures
- One sack
- Four missed tackles
What Went Right
There were few—if any—that could match Chaisson’s enthusiasm. He was always a 110% ready to give 150%—sometimes to his detriment, but more on that below. Chaisson started the season admittedly raw. His college tape showed a pass rusher who relied almost solely on pure athletic ability and that’s the same understanding of the game he brought to the NFL. It took a while for him to, well, understand the game.
As the season progressed, injuries meant Chaisson had to see a higher and higher snap count and as such, his baptism by fire meant by season’s end, he was showing his ability to marry the athletic ability that made him special and the student that was going to help him succeed.
By the end of Week 17, when he started versus the Indianapolis Colts, Chaisson had put together a second half of the season that saw him accumulate 22 of his 29 quarterback pressures and 15 of his 20 quarterback hurries.
One of the best things to come out of Chaisson’s rookie season was the maturation of Josh Allen. The second-year defensive end took the example set by Calais Campbell and began to mentor Chaisson. The duo would stay after practice and work on swim moves, get-offs and the extra effort it takes to succeed against a NFL offensive line. It was evident more and more in Chaisson’s game as the season went on and also gave Allen a greater sense of responsibility for the team.
Former Defensive Coordinator Todd Wash noticed this improvement in Chaisson ahead of Week 16, saying “he’s worked extremely hard since he’s been here of trying to improve his game and getting better and better each week…hopefully, we can get him to get a couple sacks and that kind of stuff, which obviously he’s dying for at this point in time. But he works his tail off to get better each and every day, studies, and you’re starting to see some of the benefits of that hard work.”
When Went Wrong
As Wash mentioned, Chaisson was “dying for” a sack at some point. He had a sack early on in Week 2, then none the rest of the season. His enthusiasm even seemed to work against him at times. He was a missile, so determined to get to the backfield that he’d take off before setting his coordinates.
And while Chaisson is there to be an edge rusher and his coverage skills aren’t at the top of list of needs, they are an area of his game that must improve. He allowed a 100% catch rate on four passes according to PFF. His run defense was also lacking, scoring a 39.2 overall from PFF, based on their metrics. He gave up only four missed tackles, which is notably impressive. However, he also only tallied 12 stops (which PFF defines as “tackles that constitute a ‘failure’ for the offense”), a number that was effected by Chaisson getting out of position at times.
The biggest thing that went wrong for Chaisson in 2020 wasn’t entirely his fault though. He’s an edge rusher for a 3-4 or 4-3 defense, and was shoe-horned into a 50-under front during his first year in the league. More often than is necessary for someone of his position, Chaisson was asked to line up with his hand in the ground and rush from a three-point stance.
This was not the best utilization of skill set and it hampered his acclimation to the NFL.
For as much as K’Lavon Chaisson’s rookie season felt like a roller coaster ride at times, it also provided the same exhilaration as a loop-de-loop of the ride. One simply couldn’t help but watch him. He was entrancing and positively vibrated with energy. If he can hold on to that while working to perfect technique, Chaisson could be a special player for the Jaguars.
Chaisson’s new defensive coordinator is Joe Cullen, the former defensive line coach for the Baltimore Ravens. Cullen’s background in the trenches—and his experience working with stars like Calais Campbell—bode well for guys like Chaisson and Josh Allen.
“They could play in either scheme,” Cullen said of Allen and Chaisson, in relation to possibly playing in a 3-4 or a 4-3.
“Both of those guys are versatile, they are athletic. They can put their hand down, they can stand up. They can do a lot of different things, and I’m excited.”
When former General Manager Dave Caldwell and former Head Coach Doug Marrone elected to draft Chaisson in the first round of 2020, it was met with some skepticism. Was he worth such a high pick? That can be argued, but the sparks are there, showing us what the duo saw during evaluation that led to the club falling in love with the edge rusher.