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Todd Wash opens up Jaguars' defense to bring out the best in players

The man behind the Jaguars' big play defense has adjusted his play-calling to fit his players' strengths.
Nov 13, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash (left) prior to a game against the Houston Texans at EverBank Field. Houston Texans won 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being a holdover from the former regime, Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash has brought a new feel to his side of the ball this season.

The Jaguars' defense leads the league with 15 takeaways after failing to produce turnovers during the previous four years. The unit also leads the league with 20 sacks after failing to consistently get to the quarterback in the previous two campaigns.

The turnaround has been eye-opening.

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Jacksonville's defense has become a playmaking machine. The turnovers and sacks have helped the team reach a 3-2 record for the first time since 2010.

Wash was named defensive coordinator prior to Gus Bradley's final year at the helm.

While Wash has never said he was hamstrung by the previous regime, it has become clear that his alterations have opened up the defense for more success.

"I think we've been able to expand the package," Wash said Thursday.

"Understanding the skill set and saying 'this would help our three-deep stuff, this would not help our three-deep stuff.' I think a lot of it was what we needed to change to help the package. That was the biggest thing in the offseason. If we had the players to do that, we were going to put [the changes] in. We're very, very blessed to have good players and expand the package."

The players, most notably the defensive backs, have flourished under the changes made to the scheme.

Wash still employs mostly three-deep coverage - with a safety near the line of scrimmage - but he has allowed the secondary to play to its strengths when necessary. The Jaguars have used more split-safety looks this year, which has freed up the cornerbacks to take more chances in coverage.

Those adjustments have allowed the defensive backs to account for 8 of the Jaguars' 10 interceptions on the season.

"He's opened up [the defense] a lot," cornerback Jalen Ramsey said. "The base stuff that we run is primarily the same but he's given us more freedom - I would say - to make plays, go out and take gambles and just kind of be free without techniques. We've been able to add to our toolboxes and been able to do different little stuff that helps us be successful on Sunday."

While it seems like a relatively smart concept, coaching to players' strengths isn't always the most common approach in the NFL. Some coaches prefer to subscribe to a "scheme over talent" mentality.

Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone has been pleased with Wash's ability to adjust to his players.

"I think what Todd has done is he’s opened up to a lot of things that will fit what our philosophy is and trying to do things that are going to make us better and help us win," Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said Monday.

"So, in my experience when you have coordinators that are that way then you have a chance because you can play to the strengths of the players."

The defensive coordinator has been successful during his second season at the post. Wash said the new additions to the roster have helped him find those positive results

"It's a credit to them, with Calais [Campbell], [Barry] Church and the other guys that we've added," Wash said. "It's unbelievable. They're good football players, but like I said when we got them, I think they're better people and that's where it starts as an organization. We've got to have good people in the building and we do. They're all buying into the one common goal of winning football games."

Wash's next test will come against a high-powered Los Angeles Rams offense. The unit has posted 35 points or more in three of their first five games this season.

It will be on Wash and his crew to make sure they curb the Rams' offense and prevent a shootout at EverBank Field on Sunday.

Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.

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