The 10 Most Important Jaguars For 2020, No. 6: Taven Bryan

John Shipley

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.

The list started with nose tackle Al Woods at No. 10, then second-year right tackle Jawaan Taylor at No. 9, then No. 8 with linebacker Joe Schobert and yesterday we covered running back Leonard Fournette at No. 7.

Now, we will take a look at who we have determined is the No. 6 most important Jaguars player moving into 2020: defensive tackle Taven Bryan. The team's 2018 first-round pick has faced immense scrutiny since Jacksonville selected him over Lamar Jackson, in part due to the fact that the Jaguars passed on Jackson and in part because Bryan has had bouts of inconsistent and poor play.

Through two seasons, Bryan has appeared in 32 games with nine starts, recording 53 tackles, eight tackles for loss, three sacks, 11 quarterback hits and one forced fumble in the process. Not exactly the production the Jaguars were likely hoping for when they picked Bryan with the No. 29 overall pick, though Bryan has also flashed immense potential at times. 

So, why is Bryan considered one of the team's most important players this season? We examine below:

Why Taven Bryan is important for the Jaguars in 2020

Over the last two seasons, Jacksonville has seen each of its top interior pass rushers leave for greener pastures with Malik Jackson signing with Philadelphia after being released and Calais Campbell being traded to Baltimore in March. 

In six combined seasons in Jacksonville, Campbell and Jackson recorded 49.5 sacks. A key part of the best Jaguars' defenses over recent years was the ability to disrupt the passing game from the interior of the offensive line, but as of now the Jaguars are left searching for alternate solutions following the departures of Jackson and Campbell. 

In 2020, the Jaguars will have to lean on a group comprised of Al Woods (5.5 sacks in 10 seasons), Abry Jones (9.5 sacks in seven seasons), Bryan (3 sacks in two seasons), Dawuane Smoot (six sacks in three seasons), Rodney Gunter (11 sacks in five seasons) and rookie DaVon Hamilton, who had seven sacks in four seasons at Ohio State.  

As it stands today, nobody in this group is a certified stud pass-rusher like Jackson and Campbell were during their tenures in Jacksonville. There are a few players who have flashed the ability to get after the quarterback, but nobody is the clear cut solution. The one player who may be the most likely answer to the question of the interior pass rush? It is Bryan, in large part due to his skill set. 

Bryan has a much different set of traits than every other defensive lineman on the roster. He is an explosive, upfield penetrator who wins with quickness, speed and strength. While other players at the position are better at anchoring vs. the run, Bryan has flashed the most potential when it comes to collapsing the pocket in a quick manner, specifically from the three-technique spot. 

For evidence of Bryan's rare athleticism that helps him stand out among Jacksonville's defensive line, look at these collections of data from Kent Lee Platte's Relative Athletic Score metric and also data from Mockdraftable. 

According to Lee Platte's RAS metric, Bryan has elite explosion and agility and great speed for the position. Overall, he graded out as nearly an elite athlete.

taven-bryan-ras-17095
Taven Bryan's RAS via Kent Lee Platte.

Then, Bryan's Mockdraftable web shows that his performance at the NFL Scouting Combine put him in rare company when it came to most of his timed positional drills. 

Overall, Bryan's athleticism and strengths as a player suggest he is Jacksonville's best hope to replace Campbell following his trade to Baltimore. While Bryan has yet to put it all together and produce on a consistent basis in his first two seasons, he still has all of the traits to indicate the Jaguars' interior pass rush will hinge on his performance. 

Jacksonville saw Bryan take some steps forward last season, even if the final numbers don't reflect a dramatic improvement from his shaky rookie season. The coaches seemed optimistic about his development moving forward, but now he will have to prove he can get even better in year three.

"He’s doing a nice job on the line of scrimmage. He’s disruptive. I know he wants to be able to make some more plays and stuff like that, but you see the disruption at the line of scrimmage, knocking some players back," defensive coordinator Todd Wash said in November. "[He] had some really nice penetration versus Houston a couple weeks ago, so we’re seeing the explosiveness that we drafted and he’s only getting better. If you look at it from the beginning of the season to where he’s at now, he’s gotten better and better. So, he’ll continue to get more snaps, obviously he’s starting for us. You see improvement on basically the little things and he’s starting to make some plays for us.”

If the Jaguars are to get a consistent disruptive presence from the middle of their defense, it will likely have to be Bryan and his ability to make plays. While there is legit question if Bryan can step up, there is no question about his importance heading into the fall.

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