The 10 Most Important Jaguars For 2020, No 10: Al Woods
2020 is a make-or-break year for the current regime leading the Jacksonville Jaguars. While this may sound like a broken record after being overly repeated since the disappointing 2019 season drew to a close, it is the simple truth.
In the last two years, the Jaguars have finished in last place of the AFC South each season while compiling a 11-21 record. In fact, 2019's meager 6-10 record, as bad as it was, was actually one of the better records the Jaguars produced during the 2010s decade. The past has been ugly for the Jaguars and the team will assuredly put as much energy as possible into changing this in 2020.
As the Jaguars attempt to reverse their look and field a winning team in the fall, they will need all 53 members of the active roster and every coach on the staff to step their game up. But among those on the team, there are a select few players who will be especially pivotal to Jacksonville's success.
As we continue to move forward toward the start of the 2020 NFL season (pending one actually taking place), we will take a look at which players we think are especially important next season.
A few players will be left off of the list but we still want to recognize them. The most honorable mention list contains the following players:
- TE Tyler Eifert: Jacksonville is in dire need of production out of the tight end position after injuries have sapped the position group of its top talents in the last two seasons. Eifert, a veteran unrestricted free agent, will now be tasked with leading Jacksonville's tight end room and bringing consistency back to the position.
- CB Tre Herndon: In the NFL, your No. 2 cornerback is essentially just as important as your No. 1 cornerback. While Tre Herndon is unlikely to be the Jaguars' top cover man on the depth chart due to the presence of No. 9 overall pick CJ Henderson, his performance in 2020 will still be key for the transformation of Jacksonville's defense.
- SS Ronnie Harrison: One of the Jaguars' top defensive playmakers in 2019, third-year safety Ronnie Harrison has even more to prove in 2020. He will need to show the Jaguars that he can not only be durable but also remain consistent against both the run and the pass in Jacksonville's secondary.
- C Brandon Linder: The general of the Jaguars' offensive line, Brandon Linder put away some of the concerns about his injury history in 2019 after he played all 16 regular season games for the first time in his career. Linder's reliability and leadership will be vital once again in 2020.
- DE/OLB K'Lavon Chaisson: With the uncertainty surrounding Yannick Ngakoue, it is hard not to think No. 20 overall pick K'Lavon Chaisson will be critical in 2020 as he provides depth behind Josh Allen. Chaisson is a raw and athletic pass-rushing option and the importance of his impact on the defense will largely hinge on whether Ngakoue plays for Jacksonville in the fall or no.
With those just outside the top-10 covered, we now move onto who we think are the 10 most important players moving into next season. Coming in at the first slot? Veteran free agent signing Al Woods.
Jacksonville signed Woods, 33, to a one-year contract in March in hopes that the veteran could make an impact at nose tackle and help transform the team's run defense. But just what can the Jaguars expect from the 11th-year veteran?
Why Al Woods is important for the Jaguars in 2020
Entering the 2020 offseason, there was maybe no position more important for the Jaguars to upgrade than nose tackle. The team's top nose tackle since 2017, Marcell Dareus, had his team option for 2020 declined after a core muscle injury forced him to miss all but six games last year, leaving a gaping hole at a key position in Jacksonville's defense.
Without Dareus, the Jaguars were forced to turn to long-time veteran Abry Jones, seventh-round rookie Dontavious Russell and several other journeyman linemen to fill the void in the middle of the run defense. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, none of their backup plans played to the level of Dareus and the Jaguars were among the weakest teams against the run in the entire NFL as a result.
Last year, the Jaguars allowed the second-most yards per carry (5.1) among all teams, the fifth-most rushing yards (2,229), the second-most touchdowns (23) and the sixth-most first downs allowed on the ground (114).
After Jones already displayed in 2019 that he may not be a starting-caliber run-stuffer, the Jaguars will essentially be forced to turn to Woods in hopes of providing a veteran presence make an impact vs. the run. While nose tackle typically isn't the most important or lucrative position on defense, it is key for the Jaguars to get production out of Woods after last year's poor run defense singlehandedly lost a few games in 2019.
Woods has been known throughout his career for his ability to be a plug and play performer against the run. The gargantuan defensive tackle (6-foot-4, 330-pounds) is an anchor in the middle of nearly every defensive line he has been a part of thanks to his combination of size, strength and quickness. For the Jaguars to fix their run defense in 2020, the performance of Woods will be as pivotal as anyone else.
"When you look at [Al] Woods, you see someone that I’ve known and played against and he’s always a tough guy to move, and I think he can give you, at times," head coach Doug Marrone said in March. "Al is a tough man to move, he’s a big human being and we expect him to come in there and really clog it up and play the run well."
Woods doesn't have stupendous production due to the fact that he rarely plays all three downs since he is strictly a run defender. He has played more than 42% of a defensive's snaps just once since 2012 and this kind of rotational role should be exactly how Woods is utilized by the Jaguars in 2020.
While Woods won't be an every-down player who makes a noticeable impact against the pass, the Jaguars can expect for Woods to be a starter-level producer vs. the run early in his tenure. Since 2014, Woods has recorded 87 tackles and 18 tackles for loss, meaning he has made the most of his limited snaps. He won't be a Calais Campbell type of penetrator, and may not even be the type of player Dareus was in 2017 due to his age, but his performance is still going to be key for the Jaguars as they attempt to rebuild their run defense.