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Three Jacksonville Jaguars – Calais Campbell, Jalen Ramsey, and Yannick Ngakoue – were named to CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco’s top 100 NFL list.
The Jacksonville Jaguars defense gets some more love this offseason.

In his recent list of the top 100 players in the NFL, Pete Prisco of has included three Jaguars players, all who should make an impact on this season. It’s a list he said isn’t easy to compile because of the talent in the NFL.

“So dive in, look around, complain, moan and groan – I expect all of it – but putting together a list like this isn’t easy,” Prisco writes. Good players get left out because we have an abundance of them in the NFL right now and there is a giant middle class after the 25 or so dominant group of stars.”

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The former Jaguars beat writer here in Jacksonville turned NFL analyst listed defensive end Calais Campbell 17th on his list. Jalen Ramsey, the Jaguars controversial cornerback and arguably the best player on the roster, comes in at No. 33. Yannick Ngakoue, who is seeking a new deal from the team in the final season of his rookie deal, comes in at No. 71. The Jaguars can ill afford the edge rusher to hold out or miss time this season because of a financial distraction.

“He has 29.5 sacks in his first three seasons and had 9.5 a year ago,” Prisco writes about Ngakoue, who was a third-round pick out of Maryland in 2016. “It’s no wonder he’s looking for a big contract.”

Ngakoue and Campbell form one of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL. The Jaguars also added Kentucky edge rusher John Allen to the mix this season with the seventh pick in the NFL Draft this past April.

Campbell has been the undisputed leader of this defense since he signed a free-agent deal with Jacksonville in the free agency in 2017. At 32 years old, he is finding a rhythm many players his age are still searching for. The defensive scheme designed by coordinator Todd Wash plays to Campbell’s strengths and has allowed him to have his two best seasons of his career in Black and Teal.

Prisco thinks that despite a dip in the overall performance of the defense in 2018, Campbell still played at an ultra-high level.

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“His sack numbers went down some, but he was better last year than he was in 2017 when he got Defensive Player of the Year consideration,” he added.

The ranking of Ramsey is a bit of a question given his talent level and how he plays against top-level talent. The former 2016 first-round draft pick (in the same class with Ngakoue), made the Pro Bowl for a second consecutive season in 2018. The Jaguars have already announced they will pick up his fifth-year option in 2020 that will pay him $13.7 million.

“He wasn’t as dominant as expected last season, but I see him bouncing back in a big way. The talent is there to be the best in the league,” Prisco wrote.

The three players helped the Jaguars finish fifth in the NFL in total defense last season.

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JACKSONVILLE – This was a big surprise in the best way imaginable.

That was the consensus around the Jaguars Thursday night after using the No. 7 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft on Josh Allen, an edge player from the University of Kentucky.

The Jaguars couldn’t have been more surprised Allen was available.

They couldn’t have been happier, either.

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“As it was coming down, there were a number of picks in front of us where we thought he would go,” Jaguars Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin said shortly after selecting Allen. “When he fell to us, he was a superior football player – and too good a player to possibly pass up.”
Allen (6-feet-5, 260 pounds), the 2018 Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year, was a consensus Top 5 selection in most mock drafts leading to Thursday.
“In most of the hypothetical scenarios we put together, he was gone,” Coughlin said.

But Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said there was a feeling in the last week or so that Allen might be available at No. 7.

“About a week ago, I started doing some due diligence and talking to people around the league, and this was the guy who kept coming up like, ‘Hey, he might be there because of what some teams need and what some teams are going to go with,” Caldwell said.

While the top three selections – Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray to the Arizona Cardinals at No. 1, Ohio State edge player Nick Bosa to the San Francisco 49ers and Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams – were widely projected before the draft, the Oakland Raiders surprised many by selecting Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell No. 4 overall.

When the New York Giants selected Duke quarterback Daniel Jones following the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ selection of highly-regarded linebacker Devin White of Louisiana State, it left the surprising scenario of Allen available for the Jaguars at No. 7.

“We thought he was the guy that if two quarterbacks went we could be staring at,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell also said while much pre-draft speculation focused on a possible trade the Jaguars got no legitimate trade offers for the selection.

“We got one call before from way down in the first round that wasn’t worth our time,” Caldwell said. “It would have had to have been something significant and we weren’t moving into the 20s for what they were offering.”
Jaguars draft Kentucky DE Josh Allen
The Jacksonville Jaguars have selected Kentucky DE Josh Allen in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen carries the American flag onto the field during introductions before the first half of an NCAA college football game against Missouri Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/David Stephenson)
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Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen carries the American flag onto the field during introductions before the first half of an NCAA college football game against Missouri Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/David Stephenson)

David Stephenson
Portrait of Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen during the NFL Scouting Combine, Saturday, March 2, 2019, in Indianapolis. (Todd Rosenberg via AP)
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Portrait of Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen during the NFL Scouting Combine, Saturday, March 2, 2019, in Indianapolis. (Todd Rosenberg via AP)

Todd Rosenberg/Todd Rosenberg 2019
Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Allen in the first round at the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 25, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Allen in the first round at the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 25, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

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Caldwell said one reason the team didn’t believe Allen would be available was the belief was three teams ahead of them – the Raiders, Jets and Giants – all would take pass rushers. The Raiders and 49ers indeed focused on that area, but the Jets’ selection of Williams and the Giants’ selection of Jones left Allen on the board.

Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson, a player widely projected to the Jaguars before the draft, was selected by the Detroit Lions No. 8 overall. Caldwell called Hockenson “a very good player.”

“We had Josh rated a level higher than him (Hockenson) as a player,” Caldwell said. “We said from the get-go we would take best available player.”

Coughlin called Hockenson “very close to up where we were.”

“But Allen was the higher thought-of player,” Coughlin said, adding that the Jaguars also considered offensive line at No. 7.
“We were very much involved in offensive linemen, the tight end and the outstanding defensive player if he fell to us,” Coughlin said. “That’s kind of the way it went.”
Caldwell said the Jaguars also liked Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver, who was selected by the Buffalo Bills No. 9 overall.

“He was a consideration; we like Ed,” Caldwell said. “But if we were going to go defense it was going to be more on the edge.”

Caldwell said he envisions Allen initially playing edge rusher in passing situations opposite fourth-year defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, a Pro Bowl selection following the 2017 season. Caldwell said he would play a role similar to former defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., who had eight sacks in 2017 before being traded to the Los Angeles Rams midway through this past season.

Allen was among the Jaguars’ 30 pre-draft visits in March, a time when – as was the case during most of the pre-draft process – it seemed unlikely he would be available when the Jaguars selected No. 7.

“We had a real fine visit with him,” Coughlin said, adding with a smile. “We kidded him about where he was going to go. He said, ‘Well, maybe you’ll have to trade up.’ So, I just reminded him of that one.”


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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars released five players on Friday, headlined by defensive tackle Malik Jackson, a move that will save the team $30 million.

In addition to Jackson, the Jaguars also released safety Tashaun Gipson, running back Carlos Hyde, right tackle Jermey Parnell and long snapper Carson Tinker. The moves were made, in part, to create salary-cap space to sign a veteran quarterback, expected to be Nick Foles.

The Jaguars are expected to release quarterback Blake Bortles at some point in the coming weeks, though he is guaranteed to receive $6.5 million.

Jags CB Jalen Ramsey took to Twitter with his reaction to the moves.

Wow. This business side of things is crazy!

— Jalen Ramsey (@jalenramsey) March 8, 2019
Jackson signed a six-year, $85.5 million contract, with $31.5 million fully guaranteed and $42 million in total guarantees, with the Jaguars in March 2016 after four seasons in Denver. He set a career high with 6.5 sacks in 2016 and followed that up with the best season of his career in 2017: 8.0 sacks and four forced fumbles, and his first Pro Bowl appearance.

However, he lost his starting job in November, and his play time decreased significantly over the final month of the season, when he was being used as a third-down rusher. Jackson said late in the season that he expected to be released this offseason. The move clears up $11 million in cap space. Jackson was due to make $13 million and count $15 million against the salary cap in 2019.

Jackson, who turned 29 in January, never missed a game in his four seasons with the Jaguars and only two in his entire seven-year career. He has 32.5 sacks, six forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries, including 18 sacks and four forced fumbles in three seasons with the Jaguars.

Cutting Hyde saves the Jaguars $4.7 million. He was due to have $2 million of his $3.25 million base salary guaranteed, as well as receive a $1 million roster bonus if he was still with the Jaguars on March 15.

The Jaguars sent a fifth-round draft pick to the Browns on Oct. 20 in exchange for Hyde because they needed help, with Leonard Fournette nursing a hamstring injury that would eventually keep him out for six games. Hyde ran for 189 yards on 58 carries in eight games with the Jaguars.

Gipson was due a $500,000 roster bonus on March 17 and had a salary of $7.25 million in 2019. There is no dead money on his contract now, and his release saves the team $7.45 million. Gipson had two years remaining on the five-year, $36 million contract, with $12 million he signed in March 2016.
Gipson has started every game since joining the Jaguars and has six interceptions and 16 pass breakups in 48 games. He has 20 interceptions and 39 pass breakups in seven seasons. He played four years in Cleveland after joining the Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2012.

Parnell was entering the final year of the five-year, $32 million contract and was due a $1 million roster bonus on March 17. Parnell was due to make $5 million in 2019, and the move saves the Jaguars $6 million against the salary cap.

Parnell, who turns 33 in July, has started all 57 games in which he played with the Jaguars from 2015 to 2018. He missed one game in 2015, three in 2017, and three in 2018 because of knee injuries.

Tinker’s release saves the Jaguars $835,000, and he was made expendable when the team signed long snapper Matt Overton on Thursday.

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jalen Ramsey’s matchup against Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the biggest storylines of the first week of the NFL season, but Ramsey said Thursday that people are making a much bigger deal of that than they should.


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Some NHL stars were taken aback and some were humored by comments from NFL player Jalen Ramsey, who said he could make an NHL roster in six months.

“A lot of people are going to try and make it about me and him specifically. That’s not what it is about,” said the Jacksonville Jaguars’ third-year cornerback, who was added to the injury report on Thursday because of a sore right ankle. “Football is a team game. Eleven guys out there for us, 11 guys out there for them. We going to have to come together and do what we gotta do to try and get a win. I’m going to try and do my part.

“… It’s 11 versus 11. It’s not me vs. him all game. I’ll be on him a fair amount; I’m sure other guys will be on him too.”

Ramsey had little else to say during Thursday’s six-and-a-half-minute news conference. He was complimentary of Beckham, calling the New York Giants receiver a premier player, and he was nowhere near as boastful as he was in an ESPN story by Mina Kimes or the piece in GQ magazine in which he was critical of numerous NFL quarterbacks, including saying Beckham is the reason for Giants quarterback Eli Manning’s success.

That’s regular-season Ramsey, though. He’s somewhat low-key before games but has much more to say after, especially if he has success against a receiver. He was critical of Steve Smith Sr. after the Jaguars’ game against Baltimore in 2016 and ripped into Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green after the two were ejected at the end of the first half of a game last year.

Ramsey’s quiet demeanor on Thursday afternoon was an anticlimactic end to an eventful month. In addition to the GQ and ESPN pieces that were released in August, Ramsey also was suspended for a week for a profane tirade against local media and threatening one of those reporters on Twitter.

Despite his effort — and those of teammate Telvin Smith and defensive coordinator Todd Wash — to downplay Sunday’s matchup, how Ramsey fares against Beckham will be significant in determining the outcome of the game. That matchup got a bit more intriguing when the Jaguars announced that Ramsey was going to appear on the injury report because of the ankle soreness.

The team said Ramsey did not suffer an injury on Wednesday or Thursday but was added to the report because he took limited snaps in practice. He is still expected to play against the Giants and Beckham.

“Looking forward to it,” Ramsey said. “Looking forward to the beginning of the season with the whole team.”

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville receiver Marqise Lee suffered what appeared to be a serious left knee injury during the first quarter of the Jaguars’ 17-6 victory over Atlanta on Saturday night, but coach Doug Marrone said they won’t know its full extent until Sunday.

“Obviously it looked bad,” Marrone said. “Doctors told me, ‘Hey listen, we’re not going to be able to know anything until tomorrow, and we’ll have more information tomorrow on it.”’

“… Did anyone think it didn’t look bad? I’m just saying it looked bad. I’m just like you in that I’m waiting for the doctor to tell me so I can tell you guys, but I know what I see. I’m not going to sit there and say it didn’t look bad. It looked bad.”

Marrone on Lee’s injury: ‘It looked bad’Jaguars coach Doug Marrone is waiting for the doctor’s diagnosis, but acknowledges that Marqise Lee’s injury did not look good.
Lee was injured when he was tackled by Atlanta safety Damontae Kazee midway through the first quarter after catching a pass over the middle of the field. Lee’s left knee buckled immediately, and he grabbed it with both hands. Kazee was penalized on the play for lowering his helmet to initiate contact, and replays showed his helmet made contact with Lee’s knee.

The entire Jaguars receiving corps came out to be with Lee as he was put onto a cart and exited the field.

Kazee tweeted well wishes to Lee after the game.
Montae Kazee

Before i go out on the field i pray for both teams to stay healthy , i was just trying to make a football play, i will never ever try to hurt anyone, i just want to reach out to you bro and tell you that you’ll be in my prayers everyday @TeamLee1

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Lee, who signed a four-year, $34 million contract ($16.5 million guaranteed) in March, is the Jaguars’ most experienced receiver, with 171 catches for 2,166 yards and eight touchdowns in four seasons with the team. He led the Jaguars in receptions (56) and was second in yards (702) in 2017. He’s also the best blocker among the receivers, so his absence will also impact the perimeter of the run game.

“Everybody’s got to step up,” said veteran Donte Moncrief, who joined the team in March on a one-year, $9.6 million guaranteed contract. “Everybody in the room’s got to be ready to go, from the young guys to me. He was one of the big roles in the offense.”

Moncrief caught three passes for 62 yards, including a 37-yard catch-and-run, before the first-team offense exited the game after one possession in the third quarter. Second-year players Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook combined to catch three passes for 15 yards. They will have to share Lee’s workload for however long he’s out, Cole said.

“I’ve just got to step up,” Cole said. “Like I said, he’s still going to be there spiritually. Just going to listen to him, keep learning and keep going moving forward.
“He can still be vocal and just not play. You never know what’s going on. Hopefully he’s good.”

Even though Kazee was penalized for the hit, Lee’s teammates were not angry at the second-year player out of San Diego State. Rather, some blamed the NFL’s recent rule changes.

“You can’t be mad at 27 [Kazee],” cornerback Jalen Ramsey said. “You have to be mad at the NFL; not mad at them, but that is how the rule is. People are scared to tackle normal because I guess they don’t want to do helmet-to-helmet and get flagged. … Game-changing stuff could happen. You don’t really want to blame anyone, but you feel bad for him.

“I don’t know, man, that’s just tough to see it happen to one of my teammates, period, but you can’t really blame 27.”

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Former UF defensive tackle Taven Bryan is sticking close to home. Well, his second home anyway.

With the 29th selection in Thursday’s NFL draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Bryan to join one of the league’s top defenses and the Wyoming product was happy to hear he was headed to the Jags.

“Jacksonville’s an interesting situation because I was honestly surprised. With all of the players they have, I’m surprised they picked me,” Bryan said.

He said it felt great to finally find out where he would end up after having to wait for 28 other selections to be made ahead of him.

“Oh it kills ya. It kills ya sitting in there. You’re just waiting like waiting and like, ‘Oh, those people won’t pick me,’ and so you’re like, ‘OK, maybe those people will,” Bryan said. “And you kind of work your way down.”

Bryan’s selection extended the Gators’ streak of first-round draft picks to six years and gives the Jags one of the more intriguing prospects in the 2018 draft class.

Few players available possess Bryan’s physical gifts.

On ESPN’s telecast of the draft’s first round, analyst Mel Kiper Jr. compared Bryan’s ability with that of Houston Texan J.J. Watt, a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Former Florida DT Taven Bryan was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (Chris Hays / Orlando Sentinel)
Bryan left college early to enter the draft as a junior, but he wasn’t sweating the possibility that he wouldn’t get picked, although for a while the first round became kind of iffy.

“You can’t worry to much about it. You go where you go and it’s all depending on … what teams need,” he said. “It was awesome. I feel very blessed and I feel very happy to have gotten the call.

“I expect just to come in and try to do the right thing and be the best dude I can be.”

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said Bryan looks like he should a perennial Pro Bowler but that he disappeared too often in games during his college career.

Bryan certainly was drafted for his potential more than his production during three seasons at UF.

Bryan managed just 67 tackles at UF, culminating with a solid redshirt junior season featuring 40 stops, including six for loss.

But Bryan was in a class of his own at the NFL Scouting Combine last month in Indianapolis.

The 6-foot-5, 291-pound Bryan ran the 40-yard dash in 4.98 seconds and benched-pressed 225 pounds 30 times. No DT performed better in the vertical jump (35 inches), broad jump (9 feet, 11 inches), three-cone drill (7.12 seconds) and 20-yard shuttle run (4.48 seconds).

Bryan was at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, for Thursday’s draft. The 22-year-old arrived wearing a gray and blue plaid sport coat, white dress shirt and baby blue tie, with Bose headphones wrapped around his neck.

When his named was called, the native of Casper, Wyo., let out a sigh of relief before heading onstage to shake the hand of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

In Jacksonville, Bryan will join former teammate Dante Fowler Jr., although he didn’t get to know Fowler very well in the short time they spent together in Gainesville.

“It will be cool. I didn’t get to hang out with him that much,” Bryan said. “That would have been his last year and he was out pretty quick, but he’s a really good dude.”

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Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles underwent right wrist surgery Friday for a condition that kept him on the injury report all season, league sources told ESPN.

Bortles dealt with the issue in his throwing wrist since early December 2016. The Jaguars elected to avoid surgery last offseason and treat the injury with a variety of shots. The shots became less effective into the season and made the need for surgery inevitable.

The surgery repaired a small tear and full recovery is expected.

The Jaguars’ decision to pick up Bortles’ fifth-year option was somewhat of a gamble because the contract was guaranteed for injury, meaning he would be owed the full amount if he cannot pass a physical before the league year starts.

Bortles’ $19.053 million salary for the 2018 season becomes fully guaranteed if he’s on Jacksonville’s roster the first day of the league year in March; the Jaguars are prohibited from cutting Bortles while he is hurt or recovering from an injury.

Bortles had the best year of his career despite the wrist injury, completing 60.2 percent of his passes and throwing 21 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions. He appeared weekly on the injury report but did not miss a practice and did not appear on the game status report.

Backup quarterback Chad Henne’s contract also expires in March.

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Sunday’s uncharacteristic meltdown doesn’t change the fact that the Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense is one of the league’s best.

It’s not on the same historical pace it was for much of the season, but the Jaguars still lead the NFL in sacks (52) and pass defense (173.5 yards per game), are second in scoring (16.9 points per game) and third in total defense (289.7 YPG).

The unit has come a long way in only two years.

The Jaguars ranked 20th or worst in those same statistical categories, including 31st in scoring (28.0 points per game), in 2015, which was one of the main reasons quarterback Blake Bortles set franchise records in attempts, completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns. The Jaguars were always trailing … by a lot.

The journey from the bottom of the defensive rankings to the top might have happened quickly, but it wasn’t easy. The Jaguars (10-5) had to hit big time in the draft and nail free agency by targeting the right players and having enough salary-cap space to afford them.

General manager Dave Caldwell did both, and here’s a look at how it all came together:

The draft

Caldwell gets plenty of criticism for his first draft in 2013 and his selection of Bortles third overall in 2014, but he absolutely nailed his first three picks of the 2016 draft: cornerback Jalen Ramsey, linebacker Myles Jack and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue.

Ramsey made the Pro Bowl in 2017 and has established himself as one of the best man-coverage corners in the NFL. He takes the opponent’s top receiver each week, and this season has locked down T.Y. Hilton, A.J. Green, Sammy Watkins, Larry Fitzgerald, and Doug Baldwin.

Ramsey led all rookies with 14 pass breakups, and intercepted two passes and forced a fumble in 2016.

Jack had a nondescript rookie season because he wasn’t able to settle at one spot. He started working behind Paul Posluszny in the middle, moved to weakside linebacker behind Telvin Smith, and eventually settled in at strongside linebacker. He played only 230 snaps.

The Jaguars moved him to middle linebacker in the offseason and slid Posluszny to the strong side. Jack has started every game and has a fumble return for a touchdown.

Ngakoue has been fantastic in his two seasons. The third-round pick ranks ninth overall in sacks (20) and first in forced fumbles (10) since the start of the 2016 season. He has been the second-best pass-rusher from the 2016 draft, behind only Joey Bosa (22 sacks), and has outperformed first-round picks Leonard Floyd (12.5 sacks), DeForest Buckner (nine), and Shaq Lawson (six) and second-round picks Noah Spence (6.5) and Emmanuel Ogbah (9.5).
The Jaguars’ investment in Calais Campbell has paid off big, with the defensive end notching 14.5 sacks in his first 15 games with Jacksonville. Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports
Three other starters or key contributors on the defense also were Caldwell draft picks: Linebacker Smith (fifth round, 2014), defensive end Dante Fowler (first round, 2015) and nickelback Aaron Colvin (fourth round, 2014).

Smith has become the Jaguars’ emotional leader and one of their most consistent playmakers, with a team-high 93 tackles (11 for loss), three interceptions, two fumble recoveries (one for a TD) and five pass breakups. Fowler missed his first season because of a torn ACL but developed into a solid complementary pass-rusher (11.5 sacks, including 7.5 in 2017) over the past two seasons.

The Jaguars drafted Colvin despite the fact that he suffered a torn ACL three months before the draft during Senior Bowl practices. He missed the first 10 games of his rookie season but has developed into the team’s top nickelback.

Free agency

The Jaguars spent big in free agency in 2015 on tight end Julius Thomas and defensive end Jared Odrick, but structured those deals so that the combined $46.5 million in guaranteed money was paid out in the first two years. They were both cut after 2016 with no dead money and that — along with not having to sign any of the 2013 draft picks to an extension — left Caldwell with plenty of cap space to go big last March.

And he did.

Caldwell added defensive end Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye and safety Barry Church on the first day of free agency, giving out a combined $68 million in guaranteed money to the trio. It was definitely money well spent, because that group is already the best free-agent class in franchise history.

Two of those three signees are Pro Bowlers and one is a serious candidate for defensive player of the year.

Campbell (four years, $60 million, $30 million guaranteed) has enjoyed a career year in 2017, with a franchise-record 14.5 sacks and team highs with 30 quarterback hits and 12 tackles for loss. He was voted to his third Pro Bowl and trails NFL leader Chandler Jones by just half a sack.

Bouye (five years, $67.5 million, $26 million guaranteed) leads the Jaguars with a career-high six interceptions and 18 pass breakups, which ranks fourth in the NFL. Per Pro Football Focus, Bouye has allowed only 37 catches for 430 yards and no touchdowns, and opposing quarterbacks have a 31.6 rating — lowest in the league — when throwing in his direction.

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Bouye, who also was voted to the Pro Bowl, combines with Ramsey to give the Jaguars the best cornerback duo in the NFL.

Church has played a key role in the Jaguars’ defense even though he doesn’t have outstanding stats. The eight-year veteran is the calming voice in a secondary full of egos and trash talk, and he’s the player coach Doug Marrone goes to when he sees a problem with anyone in the group.

His teammates have nicknamed him Uncle Church, and he’s been a valuable buffer and pipeline between the secondary and the coaching staff. He also has set career highs in interceptions (four) and pass breakups (eight).

Defensive tackle Malik Jackson was the cornerstone of Caldwell’s 2016 free-agent class. He signed a six-year, $86.1 million contract with a franchise-record $46 million guaranteed. After posting a career-high 6.5 sacks in 2016, he has bettered that in 2017 (8.0) and earned his first Pro Bowl nod.

Safety Tashaun Gipson came over in 2016 on a five-year, $36 million deal with $12 million guaranteed. After tying his career low with one interception his first season in Jacksonville, he has rebounded with four this season as his role has expanded.

The coordinator

Good players are important, but so is someone who is able to put them together in a scheme in which they can thrive. That’s what Todd Wash has done in only his second season as a defensive coordinator.

Marrone retained Wash from Gus Bradley’s staff, but Wash is not running the same defense he ran in his inaugural season as a coordinator under Bradley. That was Bradley’s defense, which he brought with him from Seattle when he was hired as Jaguars head coach in 2013. The 4-3 alignment — with a big end and rush end (called a Leo) — featured a box safety and single-high safety, and Bradley rarely deviated from that approach.

Wash, who came with Bradley from Seattle, called the defense that way.

However, he scrapped the Leo, modified the duties of the strongside linebacker and was more flexible in his coverages. He was obviously helped by the free-agent additions, but that’s particularly true with Church because he gave Wash the ability to have interchangeable safeties.

Church is much better in coverage than Johnathan Cyprien, so Wash was able to move around Church and Gipson. The Jaguars are no longer playing almost exclusively a single-high safety. When they do, it might be Church, and not Gipson, who’s deep.

The Jaguars are playing more quarters coverage, and there have been times when Ramsey has played safety, too. There’s just more variety in what Jacksonville does in the secondary, which the players really like.

It took a bit to figure that out, though, because the Jaguars weren’t able to put their starting secondary on the field until the season opener, because each player in the group dealt with injuries at one point or another throughout camp and the preseason.

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It all came together for Wash, though, in the Jaguars’ Week 5 game at Pittsburgh. The Jaguars intercepted Ben Roethlisberger five times and won 30-9. That’s when Wash realized the defense could be special.

“The Pittsburgh game was big for us,” Wash said. “You go and you play against a really good quarterback and you play well. I think that’s really how you really look at your defense: How well do they play against really good quarterbacks?

“We thought we were going to be solid from that point.”

They’ve been better than solid, and it all came together in two years.

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars won’t have a defensive starter for the first time this season with linebacker Telvin Smith ruled out of Sunday’s game against Indianapolis because of a concussion.

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In addition, receiver Allen Hurns (ankle) and backup offensive lineman Josh Wells (concussion), who has started the past three games, will not play. Right tackle Jermey Parnell (knee), left guard Patrick Omameh (quad) and linebacker Lerentee McCray (hamstring) are questionable. Parnell is expected to play.

Smith suffered the injury in the first half of last Sunday’s loss at Arizona and did not practice all week. He is the Jaguars’ leading tackler (83), including a team-high 11 for loss, and has three interceptions, five pass breakups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Rookie Blair Brown will get additional playing time in Smith’s absence.

Parnell has missed the past three games after hurting his left knee against Cincinnati on Nov. 5 when the Jaguars were at the Bengals’ goal line trying to run out the clock. He hasn’t played since, and his replacement (Josh Wells) has struggled as a run-blocker because he’s not as powerful as the 6-foot-6, 326-pound Parnell.

Omameh injured a quad against the Chargers and left the game in the second half. He has missed the past two games. Backup Chris Reed has started both games.

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — When Corey Grant gets the fake punt order from Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone, there’s only one thing on his mind.

Don’t tip it off.

Not, “I hope it works,” or, “what a great call,” or, “let me review exactly what I’m supposed to do.” Just: Don’t give it away.

“You want to just go through your normal, casual demeanor,” Grant said. “Not do anything different, but yeah, it is hard. The nerves spike up and you’re thinking, ‘Make sure I don’t do anything I don’t usually do. Don’t go too fast.'”

That’s one of the many small, unnoticed details that go into successfully converting a fake punt. So far, the Jaguars are a perfect 3-for-3 in pulling them off, which puts them in pretty elite company in the NFL. Only three teams in the past decade have had more success with fake punts than the Jaguars this season.

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Per ESPN Stats & Information, only three teams attempted more than three fake punts in a single season since 2007: The 2009 New York Jets, the 2012 Jets, and the 2015 St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams. They all attempted four but only the 2009 Jets converted four; the 2012 Jets converted three and the Rams just one.

“I think it says that we’re prepared,” punter Brad Nortman said of the Jaguars’ 1.000 batting average. “I think that it says that our coaches do a really good job scheming. I think it says that they’re confident in us being able to execute. I just think that it shows that we’re a team that is able and willing to run fakes and try to put our offense and defense in good spots.”

Nortman pulled off the latest fake when he completed a 29-yard pass to tight end James O’Shaughnessy from the Jaguars’ 49-yard line against Indianapolis last Sunday. That came on their first possession of the game and the Jaguars eventually ended the drive with a touchdown.

That’s another unique aspect of the fakes: They’ve all either resulted in or continued drives that led to touchdowns.

Grant ran 58 yards to the Baltimore Ravens’ 7-yard line on the final play of the third quarter of the Jaguars’ 44-7 victory in London. Leonard Fournette scored on the next play. Grant scored on a 56-yard fake punt return in the Jaguars’ 20-17 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.

“It (a successful fake punt) gets the game going,” Grant said. “It motivates us. For that to happen as soon as it happened [last Sunday] it just sparked everybody because most of the time when we call that nobody knows except the guys on the field and coach. So you have defense over there thinking they’re about to go back on the field and you see a fake and we convert a first down, it just gets everyone going.”

Fake punts aren’t called on a whim. It’s the result of film study throughout the week. Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis is looking for weakness the Jaguars can exploit, a certain formation or the way a player handles his assignment, for example. If DeCamillis finds a weakness they’ll put the fake punt call in the game plan but it’s up to Marrone to decide if he wants to try it.

That depends on flow of the game, whether the team needs a boost, how confident he is in the call. The fact that the Jaguars’ defense is one of the best in the league is a factor, too — if the call doesn’t work the defense is good enough to make up for it and keep the opponent out of the end zone.

The decision is way more than just a gut feeling.

“I wish I could say, ‘Yes, it is a feel,'” Marrone said. “I think it is a little bit of that. I think it’s strategic. What are the percentages of us being able to make this play and all of the other stuff that goes into it?

“Everything plays a role. Weather, the way your offense is playing, [the way your] defense is playing. I think all of that stuff goes into it and that’s probably what people tend to what that ‘feel’ is.”
Grant is a key piece of the fake punts, and not only because he’s carried the ball twice. He’s the personal protector (lined up several yards behind the line of scrimmage) and is the only player that can call off a fake if the Jaguars don’t get the look from the opposing team they are expecting. If he’s not on the field then it’s fullback Tommy Bohanon lining up in the same spot and making the call.

Grant says opponents are going to be hyper-aware now whenever the Jaguars line up to punt so it may be time to retire the fake in which he takes the direct snap, or at least put it in storage for a while. The Jaguars may have to find something different if they want to go 4 for 4 or better.

“Coach Joe D., he’s doing a great job scheming teams up and finding their weakness,” Grant said. “We just try to take advantage of it at times that we really needed it. It’s just been working out for us.”