This is the second in a series of articles breaking down the Jacksonville Jaguars top needs entering the 2013 offseason.
The Jaguars defense was one of the worst units in the NFL in 2012 just one year after being one of the best units in the league.
The root of the drop-off in performance from the Jaguars defense may have been the poor play across the board along the defensive line. The Jaguars were the third-worst in the league against the run, allowing an average of 141 yards per game, and they finished dead last in the league in sacks with only 20.
With that being said, perhaps the most pressing need facing the Jaguars this off-season outside of quarterback is to find an elite pass rusher. With the Jaguars sitting with the second pick in the draft they are in prime position to add an elite defensive lineman at the top of the draft.
Now that the Jaguars have hired Gus Bradley as head coach, it is assumed that they will continue to run the 4-3 defense. The top 4-3 defensive end prospects in this year’s draft appear to be Bjoern Werner of Florida State and Damontre Moore of Texas A&M. Either one would immediately come in and make an impact along a defensive line that desperately needs a guy who can accumulate double digit sacks and be effective against the run.
The Jaguars could also take a look at a couple guys in free agency if they choose to go in a different direction at the top of the draft. Michael Johnson of the Cincinnati Bengals, Michael Bennett of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cliff Avril of the Detroit Lions are all expected to be top free agent targets of teams looking for every down defensive ends.
The Jaguars will also need to address needs on the interior of their defensive line this offseason. Terrance Knighton struggled this past season in which he lost his starting job, and he is now a free agent. Former first-round pick Tyson Alualu has been a complete disappointment and is entering a contract year. The Jaguars lacked a strong presence in the middle and it was apparent in how bad they were against the run.
If the Jaguars decide to let Knighton walk in free agency, they will need to find somebody to replace him. At the top of the draft, they have been linked to Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. They could also look at Henry Melton of the Chicago Bears or Randy Starks of the Miami Dolphins in free agency.
In order for the Jaguars defense to return to success in 2013, they are going to need to find a way to add at least two impact players along the defensive line that can help improve their poor pass rush, and once again make it tough to run the football against the Jaguars defense.