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 an 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.
We have already hit the first half of our list, with the following players being ranked No. 5 through No. 10:
We are almost done with our list of the most crucial and important Jaguars players heading into 2020, now moving onto No. 2. And who else to take the second-most important spot than defensive end Josh Allen, the team's top draft pick in 2019.
Allen got off to a hot start as a Jaguars thanks to a rookie campaign that saw him set a new Jaguars rookie sack record with 10.5, a figure that led all rookies last season and helped Allen become a Pro Bowl alternate in just his first season.
Despite playing only 60% of the defensive snaps, Allen quickly established himself as a legitimate playmaker early on in his career. Allen had some of his best games against top competition, recording 4.5 of his sacks in five games vs. the Tennessee Titans, New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts. In all, Allen recorded 44 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 23 quarterback hits and two forced fumbles.
By recording 10.5 sacks, Allen became only the sixth player since 2011 to record double-digit sacks as a rookie, joining the likes of Von Miller, Aldon Smith and Bradley Chubb. Since sacks became an official stat in 1982, only 35 rookies have reached double-digit sacks and only 23 players had at least 10.5.
The table is already set for Allen to be one of the faces of Jacksonville's defense moving forward, but why exactly are his contributions set to be especially important in 2020?
Why Josh Allen is important for the Jaguars in 2020
With the mass exodus of defenders from Jacksonville's defense over recent seasons, specifically along the front seven, it is an understatement to say the Jaguars need Allen to have a big second season in 2020. In fact, he is the only defender entering the season who has somewhat of a track record of consistent production, even if his sample size is minimal.
Just this offseason alone, the Jaguars lost Calais Campbell (31.5 sacks over the last three seasons) and Yannick Ngakoue (37.5 sacks over the last four seasons) is far from a lock to return to the team in 2020 due to his dispute with the franchise over his desire to play for a new team. The Jaguars placed the franchise tag tender on Ngakoue, but the fifth-year defensive end has yet to sign it.
That means the Jaguars have lost two players who combined for over 60 sacks in the last three seasons, including a combined 14.5 sacks last year. The career sack numbers of other players on Jacksonville's roster reflect the fact that the team may be in serious trouble in terms of its ability to get after the quarterback if Allen doesn't continue to produce.
- Cassius Marsh: 14 career sacks
- Aaron Lynch: 20 career sacks
- Lerentee McCray: 4 career sacks
- Dawuane Smoot: 6 career sacks
- K'Lavon Chaisson: 0 career sacks due to status as a rookie
- Taven Bryan: 3 career sacks
Simply put, the Jaguars have no other players on the roster aside from Ngakoue and Allen who are established pass rushers. Chaisson is a high-ceiling, athletic edge defender who flashed in a major way for LSU's defense last season, but he is still a rookie who is set to be leaned on to produce in a season that is working against the optics of rookie production.
Players like Smoot and Bryan are defenders the Jaguars are high on, but neither have quite yet proven to be the type of impact defender that Allen proved he was in 2019. Allen will, of course, have to try to duplicate his production, but he is the Jaguars' best bet to get production off of the edge.
With the major personnel changes at all three levels of the defense, the Jaguars will likely be set to lean on Allen as a leader on and off the field as well. There is already a major leadership void with Campbell's departure, and Ngakoue's uncertain future only adds to this.
"You know, [defensive line] coach [Jason] Rebrovich and I have talked obviously quite a bit about Josh and where we see him. The biggest thing we're looking for him is to continue to improve, continue to make impact plays," Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash said in June.
"I think as a coach, you always want a young man to continue to develop as a leader within our unit, you know, obviously losing some veterans up front and that kind of stuff," Wash said. "Everybody's saying we need Josh to be a leader. We need Josh to be a leader. But the biggest thing is we need him to continue to improve as a player fundamentally, and I think the leadership stuff will naturally come. I don't think as a coach, you can say hey, this is our leader we want you to become the leader. I think it's just naturally going to happen. He has shown that already in this offseason, taking control of some things within our defensive line unit.
"But the biggest thing we're looking for is just improvement and with him fundamentally and continue to be a playmaker like he was last year."