It all starts up front: Jaguars looking to forge fearsome front on defense

Jaguars Mailbag: How does FA impact the draft?

Turnovers eluded the Jaguars last season. 

That's partially why the team went after cornerback A.J. Bouye and safety Barry Church in free agency. After finishing with just seven interceptions last season, the Jaguars clearly needed to add defensive backs with ball skills.

Another asset for the interception department is a strong pass rushing presence. It's why the front office pegged newly added Calais Campbell to help enhance the pressure created by the defensive front. 

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The thought process behind improving the pass rush to produce more turnovers is logical.

Forcing poor decisions from a quarterback will lead to better opportunities for interceptions. Getting to the quarterback for sacks could lead to more forced fumbles.

With that strategy in place, the Jaguars are still looking to add to their defensive line in the second wave of free agency.

“I think it all starts up front," Jaguars General Manager Dave Caldwell said on Friday.

"[Tom Coughlin] is a big believer in that. Coach [Doug] Marrone is a big believer in that. If we can control the line of scrimmage and get those guys in the back end a chance. If you look across the league, the majority of turnovers come from your linebackers and your back end."

The team has invested plenty of money in the defensive line.

Defensive tackle Malik Jackson was the highest-paid player on the roster heading into free agency. Nose tackle Abry Jones was rewarded for his solid play last season with a four-year contract. Campbell was signed to a massive deal just days ago.

Even with those three deals in place, the Jaguars are still expected to add fire to the flames. Free agent nose tackle Dontari Poe will visit with the team on Monday. A former first round pick, Poe has made two Pro Bowls and should command another large salary for the defensive line.

“We have the cap space," Caldwell said. 

"When I first got here, it was difficult to get players to take a visit. There was a big misconception about Jacksonville. I think anybody that has come here has changed their perception of Jacksonville. It’s a great city, it’s a great community and it’s a great place to play football. Now we just have to show the results. The hard work comes now on the field and getting wins.”

The team has plenty of room for improvement up front. While the line was strong against the run last season, the Jaguars finished tied for 19th in the league with 33 sacks. In 2015, Jacksonville produced 36 sacks, which was tied for 20th in the NFL.

That type of pressure isn't going to get the job done. It's part of the reason why the team has finished in the bottom third of the league in interceptions the last two seasons.

In order to turn things around, the Jaguars need to continue to weigh their options in free agency and the draft. Successful teams stack talent at important positions. 

Even after adding Campbell, Jacksonville must not overlook defensive line talent in the draft. While the quartet of Jackson, Campbell, Jones and Yannick Ngakoue forge a formidable front four, injuries and regression can happen.

Adding a top pass rushing prospect or a strong run-stopping presence early in the draft still remains necessary.

After releasing Roy Miller and Sen'Derrick Marks, the Jaguars have plenty of cap space and depth chart room to add another big body or two. 

The key will be finding the right players to create the ideal results.

Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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