After a month-long hiatus, the Jaguars Monday Mailbag has returned. With training camp underway, this week's mailbag features questions about the defense's performance, underrated incumbent players and potential breakout candidates on the roster.
@Jmgpackers36 asks: How's the defense and new defensive line looking after some major pick ups?
Mike Kaye: The Jaguars had an outstanding defensive showing in the first padded practice Saturday. The group produced six total interceptions (five from starting quarterback Blake Bortles) and had several "sacks" during team drills.
New cornerback A.J. Bouye has had at least one pass breakup on a top three wide receiver in all three practices, new defensive end Calais Campbell has dominated the offensive line and new safety Barry Church seems to be an upgrade against the passing attack.
The defensive line was dominant against the offensive line during one-on-one pass rushing drills. Defensive ends Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler stood out in particular. Fowler had a great third practice, beating left tackle Branden Albert in individual drills and producing at least two "sacks" during team reps.
Starting linebacker Telvin Smith and free safety Tashaun Gipson both had interceptions during team drills. Backup linebacker Hayes Pullard was constantly around the ball last week and had a pick-six on Saturday.
The group has looked very good, but we will have a better indication of their skills when the Jaguars defense plays an offense it isn't familiar with (read: the New England Patriots).
@TheShunami asks: As far as returning players, would you say Abry Jones is the most underrated or undiscussed based on playing ability or would it be someone else?
Mike Kaye: I think Jones' position puts him in that back-of-the-mind constraint. Nose tackles aren't flashy by nature. However, Jones isn't your average 4-3 nose tackle. He has some pass rushing ability and is built to move around the line.
He was paid a considerable amount of money prior to free agency and the team clearly thinks highly of him. The Jaguars cut veteran Roy Miller so that Jones could evolve his role. I think he was the second best defensive player on the roster down the stretch last season, behind then-rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
He has been a backup for the majority of his career, but I think his new starting role will help him become a fixture of the defense moving forward.
I would also say that veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis is a bit underrated. He is one of the best blocking tight ends in the league. While his role in the receiving game has diminished significantly, Lewis remains one of the most capable blockers on offense. He will play a key role in establishing the run this season, so maybe he will receive a bit more respect moving forward.
@Good_will000 asks: Who is a breakout player for the Jaguars this year?
Mike Kaye: I've thought about this quite a bit this offseason. The starting roles seem pretty established and everyone knows the starters relatively well. It's not like you can peg a "name player" with a breakout label and feel satisfied.
There are still a lot of guys you've heard of that are due for a breakout: Fowler, cornerback Aaron Colvin, wide receiver Rashad Greene and running back T.J. Yeldon. Still, I think the guy to watch out for is linebacker Audie Cole.
The team brought in Cole to be a special teams ace and the backup SAM linebacker. Cole may be one of the top special teams players in the division and he has a lot of potential to break out in the game's third phase under Joe DeCamillis. While the special teams unit isn't going to create a lot of buzz, Cole could also see some serious time on defense if Paul Posluszny struggles to adapt to the SAM linebacker position.
Another potential breakout candidate is second-year defensive tackle Sheldon Day. He was used sparingly as a rookie, but with another year under his belt, he could be a featured rotational piece on the defensive line.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.
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