JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With training camp kicking off, it is time to look at the Jaguars roster position by position.
This week, News4JAX looks at each defensive unit on the Jaguars.
On Monday it was the defensive line. Tuesday, it was the linebackers. Wednesday, we finish with the defensive backs.
The Jaguars secondary has gotten a big infusion of free agent talent over the last two years. Three of the five expected starters have come via free agency. Even with that sort of cash infusion, the Jaguars secondary has some major question marks. If all goes well the Jaguars have the talent to make Duuuval a no-fly zone.
How about the offense
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RELATED | Jaguars breakdown: The receivers
On the roster
Stats: 49 tackles, 7 pass deflections.
In 2021, Griffin was the big free agent addition to the Jaguars defense. In his first year in Jacksonville, Griffin established himself as a leader on and off the field. Last season, Griffin was tasked with shadowing the other team’s best receiver for the first time in his career. The assignment yielded mixed results. Cornerback coach Deshea Townsend said that he doesn’t expect Griffin to reprise that role this season. Griffin’s biggest issue last year was his case of the drops. If he can catch the interceptions that hit his hands this year, it will help the Jaguars defense immensely.
Stats: 71 tackles, 9 pass deflections.
Welcome home! This offseason’s big free agent addition to the secondary is Williams. The Jacksonville native is fresh off winning a Super Bowl with the Rams. Williams excelled as an outside corner in LA, but his role likely changes in Jacksonville. Williams will slide into the nickel cornerback role. Williams’ size (5-9) makes him a natural fit for the position. Without much experience in the role, it will be a question of fit until he shows otherwise on the grass.
Stats: 73 tackles, 10 pass deflections, 2 interceptions.
It was a tale of two seasons for Campbell. The first half of Campbell’s rookie campaign was rough, filled with blown assignments and the glaring inability to read the ball in the air. While he was sidelined with an injury in Weeks 5 and 6, Campbell spent time working on the practice field. That work started paying dividends as Campbell put those early season struggles behind him and flashed the skill that enticed the Jaguars to use the 33rd pick on him. What Campbell, will show up this year, the player that started 2021 or the player that ended it?
Stats: 73 tackles, 3 pass deflections.
Also a 2021 free agent addition, last season was not Jenkins’ best. He racked up more fines and flags than impact plays. Not exactly the impact the Jaguars had in mind when they signed him. The high point of his first season with the Jaguars was him wearing the green dot for the defense (the green dot player calls the plays). He ended the season with an ankle injury that sidelined him for much of the Jaguars offseason program. Jaguars safeties coach Cody Grimm called Jenkins a Swiss army knife. Jenkins’ versatile skill set will allow the Jaguars to disguise some of their looks on defense.
Stats: 26 tackles, 2 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles.
*insert Sisqo song joke*. Cisco the player (not Sisqo the musical artist) is also a part of the Jaguars 2021 drat class, but he spent the majority of the season regulated to the bench. In college, Cisco flashed the ability to be a true ball-hawking safety. In the glimpses of him in the Jaguars offseason program, Cisco looks comfortable in his new role. Despite the high ceiling for his talent, Cisco represents a big unknown heading into the season because he has not done it at the NFL level.
Stats: 88 tackles, interception, pass deflection.
Wingard earned the starting safety job last year. The former undrafted free agent has battled doubt his entire career. While many expect Wingard to move to the bench this season, he will battle every step of the way.
Stats: 17 tackles.
The savvy veteran has been a mainstay in the Jaguars secondary since entering the league in 2018. Coaches and teammates alike speak highly of Herndon’s intelligence. He will have to compete for a role on special teams and as a backup at corner.
Small school corner, big-time talent. Trent Baalke said that Doug Pederson had to tell staff how to pronounce Ouachita Baptist University. Junior, the Jaguars sixth-round pick, caught the eyes of scouts from around the NFL with his play last season. He earned first-team All-Great American Conference honors, stacking up 46 tackles, three for loss, and seven pass breakups. Junior made his mark during the Senior Bowl, making his mark as a draftable player. Junior will likely spend his rookie season as a depth play battling for reps on special teams and as a backup corner.
In 2021, Brown led the SEC in interceptions (5). The Jaguars used a seventh-round pick on Brown because he had a nose for football in college. He also has good size (6-0, 196 pounds) for the position. Brown fell to the seventh round because some believe he lacks the ideal athletic traits to be a high-level corner in the NFL.
Stats: 29 tackles, 2 pass deflections.
A special teams ace in college, now Claybrooks will look to carve out a role on the Jaguars defense. When the Jaguars drafted Claybrooks in 2020 they did so for his kickoff return ability. He has since lost that responsibility and showed some chops as a cover player. Heading into Year 3 with plenty of competition for the final cornerback spot on the roster, Claybrooks will need to bring his A-game if he plans to stick around in Duval.
Stats: 15 tackles.
Fourth year in the league and his fourth team. Crawford is back in the AFC South where it all started for him. Xavier was a 2019 sixth-round pick by the Texans. The cornerback was waived midway through the season. After a short stint with the Dolphins, he hung around the Bears practice squad and active roster for the last two seasons. It is worth noting that Jaguars cornerback coach Deshea Townsend held the same position with the Bears from 2019 to 2021.
From Juco to the NFL, Davis is a 25-year-old undrafted rookie from Southeast Missouri State. While in junior college, Davis was teammates with Chiefs CB Lonnie Johnson and Lions CB Mike Hughes. In college, Davis proved to be a versatile threat. He scored touchdowns on a kick return, punt return and an interception during his career and set a record for most punt return yards in a career.
An undrafted free agent, Franklin played for three years at Tarleton State. He added up eight interceptions and 27 pass deflections in his 29 games with the Texans. Franklin ran a 4.32 in the 40 at his pro day and will try to use that blazing speed to impress the coaching staff during camp to earn a spot on the roster.
Stats: 53 tackles, 3 pass defections, interception.
He left it all on the field in 2021. Ford made a name for himself as a special teams player before joining the Jaguars. Last season, he traded in his safety role and took over the Jaguars nickel role for the tail end of the year. That sort of versatility should keep Ford on the roster. but will he be able to earn a role on the Jaguars defense as he did in 2021?
From the UK to the NFL, Ayo is the Jaguars International Pathway program player. Ayo spent last season playing for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL. As a part of the pathway program, Oyelola will be on the Jaguars’ roster until the end of training camp. After training camp, Oyelola is eligible for the international player practice squad exemption, granting the Jaguars an extra practice squad member.
An undrafted rookie from Texas, Thompson started 22 games and racked up 108 tackles, 7 pass deflections and two interceptions in his career with the Longhorns.
The battle is on. Rusnak has found his way onto the Jaguars roster each of the last three seasons. Can he do it for the fourth year? Rusnak’s playing time has mostly come on special teams. If Rusnak is going to earn a spot on the 2022 team that is the most likely path.
Stats: 27 tackles.
The 2020 fifth-round pick has shown he can be an effective player on special teams and will try to secure his role as a backup safety. Thomas has flashed potential but has not had the opportunity to show what he can do during the regular season.
The Jaguars defensive back group is the most talented part of their defense. But there are some big questions about inexperience, scheme fit and production. The answers to those questions will come with time. The talent in this group is undeniable. If the front seven can do their jobs, this secondary should make the Bank a no-fly zone and pull in more than a few interceptions this season.