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New-look Jaguars’ defense contains a familiar face

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The Jacksonville Jaguars know what has to be done to improve on last year’s 5-11 record. It’s as simple as scoring more points than the other team.

Jacksonville already has a respectable offense. Last year they scored 376 points, putting them in the upper half of AFC teams.

The problem was, they allowed 448 points. No team in the AFC allowed more and only the New Orleans Saints were worse on the defensive side of the ball.

Coach Gus Bradley and the Jaguars’ organization clearly understand that to win more games, they have to get far more defensive stops. Opponents converted 46.3 percent of third downs against them last year.

The particular focus is defending the pass. Opponents threw for 4,291 yards, the third-worst in the league.

Six of their seven picks in the 2016 NFL draft were defensive players, led by cornerback Jalen Ramsey from Florida State and second-round pick Myles Jack, a linebacker from UCLA. Last year’s top pick, defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. from Florida, has recovered from injury and is ready to go.

Jacksonville has made a less highly publicized addition designed to help their defense. Former Bucs’ defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has joined Bradley’s staff as defensive assistant.

Kiffin still believes in the “Tampa 2” style of defense that he molded into a Super Bowl-winning unit during his 12 years in Tampa Bay. He brings more than 50 years of coaching experience to the defensive staff led by defensive coordinator Todd Walsh.

When asked about the most important thing to address on defense, his answer was stopping big plays.

“Coach Walsh has worked really hard, and Coach Bradley, on cutting down on explosion plays on defense,” Kiffin told Scout.com’s Kerry Belkin. “I think our players are buying into it and I think we’ve got a chance.”

The 76-year-old Kiffin is excited about the young talent joining the defensive unit. He has high hopes for Ramsey, who makes his Jaguars’ debut Saturday against the Bucs.

“I think Jalen Ramsey’s a darn good cornerback,” Kiffin said. “He’s good on the outside, he’s good at nickel (five defensive backs), but he’s still young.”

Kiffin reminds everyone that another Florida State All-American took some time to develop. Derrick Brooks was not a star for the Bucs from Day 1.

“It took Derrick a few years, too,” he said.

Saturday’s game at Everbank Field does not mean much in the overall scheme, but it will provide an early snapshot of new players, new coaches, and new philosophies.

 

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Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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