Jaguars position breakdown: A look at the defensive line

Dawuane Smoot of the Jacksonville Jaguars reacts after sacking Sam Darnold of the New York Jets in the second quarter of a football game at TIAA Bank Field. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) (JULIO AGUILAR, 2019 Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With training camp kicking off, it is time to look at the Jaguars roster position by position.

Each day this week, News4JAX looks at each defensive unit on the Jaguars.

Today, it’s the defensive line.

Since Trent Baalke has taken over as the Jaguars general manager he has rebuilt the Jaguars defensive line room. The D-line group is now filled with plenty of big run stuffing bodies but will it be enough to plug the holes in the Jaguars leaky run defense?

How about the offense

RELATED | Jaguars breakdown: The quarterbacks

RELATED | Jaguars breakdown: The running backs

RELATED | Jaguars breakdown: The tight ends

RELATED | Jaguars breakdown: The receivers

On the roster

Roy Robertson-Harris

Stats: 3 sacks, 37 tackles

Maybe this coaching staff will get his name right. Last season Urban Meyer called him Roy Roberts more than a few times. In 2021 Robertson-Harris tied his career high in sacks getting to the QB three times. While not a prolific pass rusher when healthy Roy provided a good push up front and is a solid run defender.

Folorunso Fatukasi

Stats: 46 tackles

The Jaguars biggest free agent addition. Fatukasi tips the scales at 318 pounds making him the largest free agent addition the Jaguars made this offseason. While the stat sheet isn’t exactly impressive, Fatukasi does the dirty work that will make his teammates look good. He was considered one of the top free agent run stuffers.

Dawuane Smoot

Stats: 6 sacks, 36 tackles, forced fumble, 3 pass deflections.

Unsung hero. Smoot has quietly been the Jaguars 2nd best pass rusher over the last 3 seasons. After 2 seasons of struggling to get to the QB, he has become a consistent 6-sack player over the last 3 seasons. Smoot’s versatility to play defensive tackle, defensive end, and outside linebacker will get him on the field.

Arden Key

Stats: 6.5 sacks, 22 tackles, pass deflection.

Has he finally figured it out? After three years of struggles, last season Key broke out with the 49ers with 6.5 sacks. The NFL is clearly not sold on his upside yet. The 26-year-old signed a one-year, $4 million contract this offseason. The former third-round pick made his biggest impact last season as an interior pass rusher. Key will have a chance to show that he has indeed figured it out this upcoming season as he will likely have a role as a rotational passer.

Adam Gotsis

Stats: 3 sacks, 27 tackles

Underrated. Gotsis has been one of the Jaguars most under-the-radar player over the past few seasons. Gotsis is a stout run defender with the size and versatility to play up and down the defensive line. Re-signing Gotsis was not a highly applauded move this offseason but it should have been.

Malcom Brown

Stats: 2 sacks, 57 tackles, pass deflection

Run stuffer. Those two worse best describe Brown’s game. The veteran defensive tackle has made a career out of being one of the better run-stuffing defensive linemen in the league.

DaVon Hamilton

Stats: 46 tackles, sack.

The sky is the limit for Hamilton. In his first two seasons in the NFL, Hamilton has shown he can be a run game wrecker. Now it is time to unlock other parts of his game. Jaguars defensive line coach Brentson Buckner said that they are asking Hamilton to do things he has never done before and showing him that he can be more than just a run stuffer. Hamilton will have to battle Fatukasi and Brown to earn opportunities.

Jay Tufele

Stats: 2 tackles.

A hand injury sidelined Tufele for a large chunk of last season and opted out of the 2020 college season due to COVID-19. So, the last time he played a full season’s worth of games was in 2019 when he earned All-Pac 12 first-team honors by racking up 42 tackles and 4.5 sacks. At this point, Tufele is a big unknown. If he can return to 2019 form when he played at Southern Cal, Tufele could earn a spot in the defensive line rotation.

Israel Antwine

The only rookie in the room, Antwine is an interior defensive lineman from Oklahoma State. In 2021, he had 20 tackles and three sacks. Antwine was a consistent player for the Cowboys during his career but he will have an uphill battle to make the final roster.

Jeremiah Ledbetter

A veteran lineman who spent last season on the Cardinals practice squad, Ledbetter has started 20 games in the NFL. Ledbetter is another player who has ties to defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell. Ledbetter was with the Bucs from 2018 to 2020 earning a Super Bowl ring during his stint.

Raequan Williams

Stats: 2 tackles

A third-year defensive tackle who spent 2020 with Doug Pederson and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Outlook

The Jaguars have a solid but not spectacular D-line group. The versatility of this bunch should allow Mike Caldwell to deploy imaginative combinations to thwart the running game. The biggest question mark is if this group can make an impact on the passing game. Smoot and Key should provide some pass rush, but outside of that duo, this group will largely rely on eating blocks to free up Josh Allen and Travon Walker to make plays from the edge.


About the Author:

Jamal St. Cyr is an award-winning sports anchor who joined the News4Jax sports team in 2019.