Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer has said it over and over. He doesn't want people to forget Jacksonville had talent in its roster room before he took the job. Talent that was acquired by a past regime that has since been defined by losses and personnel missteps.
Among the inherited talent with the most pressure on them to produce for Meyer in his first year leading the franchise is Taven Bryan, a former first-round pick who is one of the first names many think of when it comes to the past regime's failures.
After having his fifth-year option declined in May, Bryan is no longer Tom Coughlin's and Dave Caldwell's failed draft pick or Doug Marrone's failed development. Instead, he is just another player looking to carve out a role. A role that defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi thinks has the potential to be significant.
"Taven is a dangerous combination of speed and power. He has [an] elite skillset and talent, we just have to channel that and focus that where we need to help us most. If we do that, he can make a major impact," Lupoi said on Wednesday.
"The guy’s got extreme explosive attributes to him from an athletic standpoint. That’s what we need to do is get him focused, confident of where he needs to align, assign, and execute. If we can put that together, he can be a great contributor this season.”
It was high praise for a player who fell out of favor with the staff that drafted and developed him in 2020, but it isn't the first time a Jaguars coach has made those very same points. Bryan has always had an elite blend of power, explosiveness and overall athleticism, but he has failed to put it together and turn it into production in three seasons.
In 48 career games, Bryan has started 17 times and has recorded 71 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 17 quarterback hits, and one forced fumble. Bryan only started eight games last year after being benched for undrafted free agent Doug Costin. In 16 games, he recorded three tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, and six quarterback hits.
But that was then and this is now. While Bryan failed to take advantage of his opportunities as the Jaguars' starting three-technique in Todd Wash's 4-3 scheme, he appears to at least have a chance at resetting his career under Lupoi and defensive coordinator Joe Cullen's 3-4 scheme.
“I hope Taven actually gets a sense of urgency from myself and us every day when he wakes up," Lupoi said.
"Again, another individual, just like almost this whole group, of being here before report date, voluntarily attacking the training. He was an individual here weeks before our starting date."
Where exactly will the explosive but raw Bryan play in the Jaguars' defense? That is still to be determined, but it is clear the Jaguars believe he has a chance to play multiple roles if things begin to click.
Bryan started his NFL career as a strong side defensive end, a move Marrone later admitted stunted his development as a defensive tackle. Bryan spent the last two years strictly at three-technique, but his performances ranged in terms of consistency and even his best stretches didn't result in very much production.
Now, the Jaguars will have to find out how to best utilize Bryan's gifts in a defensive scheme that is much more multiple in terms of its looks and alignments than any scheme Bryan has played in before.
"He’s got a versatile skillset, so I think he has the ability to play on the edge, he’s demonstrated that already, and certainly has the power to play inside as well," Lupoi said.
"So, we’ll ask some multiple assignments of him, but it’s our job to not overcomplicate that and make sure we’re not putting him in a whole bunch of roles and asking too much of him. As he proves what he can handle and do best to help us win, that’s where he’ll be placed.”