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March 2, 2024

Jaguars Make Major Defensive Staff Changes After Missing Playoffs

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Jan 9, 2024

The Jacksonville Jaguars have fired defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell and seven other defensive assistants after the team’s late-season collapse that kept them from reaching the playoffs.

Caldwell Let Go After Two Seasons as Jaguars DC

Mike Caldwell was hired by the Jaguars in 2022 and has served as the team’s defensive coordinator for the past two seasons under head coach Doug Pederson. However, after Jacksonville lost its final five games of the 2023 season to fall out of playoff contention, the team has decided to move on from Caldwell and most of his defensive staff.

The Jaguars defense was not able to maintain its early-season success, struggling mightily during the season-ending losing streak. Jacksonville allowed an average of 28.2 points per game during that stretch, including surrendering 50+ points in an embarrassing home loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 16.

Caldwell took responsibility for the unit’s poor performance, but it wasn’t enough to save his job. Now the Jaguars will be looking for a new leader to guide their defense as they try to build on the progress made in 2023.

Entire Defensive Staff Overhauled Minus Safeties Coach

In addition to dismissing Caldwell, the Jaguars also fired defensive line coach Brentson Buckner, cornerbacks coach Deshea Townsend, outside linebackers coach Willie Martinez, inside linebackers coach Tony Gilbert, defensive assistant Bob Sutton, and senior defensive assistant Bob Fraser.

Safeties coach Cedric Brooks is the only defensive position coach being retained from Caldwell’s staff.

This house-cleaning leaves Jacksonville and head coach Doug Pederson with some major hires to make as they put together an almost entirely new defensive staff. Finding a new defensive coordinator will be the top priority, with big names like former Ravens DC Wink Martindale and former Vikings DC Leslie Frazier already being speculated as prime candidates.

Pederson Stresses Need for Improvement After 7-10 Season

The Jaguars finished the 2023 season with a 7-10 record, doubling their win total from the previous season but ultimately falling short of reaching the playoffs in the competitive AFC South division.

After the disappointing collapse over the last five games, coach Pederson knows that changes needed to be made:

“The second half of the season was not up to our standards and I felt it was necessary to make these staff changes,” Pederson said. “We all have to improve and we all have to take a look at things this offseason to be better.”

Pederson and GM Trent Baalke will now be tasked with rebuilding a defensive coaching staff that can help get Jacksonville over the hump. With a franchise quarterback in Trevor Lawrence and some strong pieces on both sides of the ball, the Jaguars still believe their window to compete is now.

“I’m excited about the nucleus of this football team,” Pederson stated. “But our time is now and the urgency for us to improve is extremely high.”

| 2023 Jacksonville Jaguars Season Results |
|-|
| Record | 7-10 |
| Points For | 359 (21st) |
| Points Against | 399 (25th) |
| Point Differential | -40 |
| Division Place | 3rd in AFC South |

Late-Season Defense Breakdown Dooms Team’s Playoff Hopes

The Jaguars got off to an encouraging 2-1 start, including a dominant 38-10 week one win over the Raiders. But the season quickly took a turn when injuries began piling up on defense during a five-game losing streak.

Still, the unit stabilized in the second half of the year with some key players returning from injury. Jacksonville won five of six games to surge into the AFC playoff race at 7-8. All they needed was one more win to clinch a wild card spot.

But the defense utterly collapsed down the stretch, hemorrhaging points in losses to the Texans, Buccaneers, Patriots, and Titans to end the year. The Jaguars allowed:

  • 31 points and 413 total yards versus Houston in week 17
  • 30 points to a depleted Bucs offense in week 18
  • 51 points and 449 total yards to New England in the finale

Injuries were a factor again late in the season, but ultimately coach Pederson lost faith that DC Mike Caldwell was the right man to lead the defense. And judging by the comprehensive changes, Pederson is ready to bring in a completely new approach on that side of the ball next year.

Jacksonville Prioritizing Defense in Search for New Coordinator

Head coach Doug Pederson made clear that upgrading the defense through both schematic changes and personnel additions will be the top focus this offseason:

“We’re going to exhaust all avenues when it comes to the defensive side,” Pederson emphasized at his season-ending press conference. “Whether that’s through free agency, trades or the draft, we need to improve talent-wise. And now we have to find the right leader to maximize that talent.”

According to reports, the Jaguars have already requested interviews with several highly-regarded defensive coordinator candidates, including:

  • Leslie Frazier: Former Vikings HC and Bills/Ravens DC. Running Tampa Bay’s defense in 2023 after three years in Buffalo
  • Wink Martindale: Longtime Ravens DC who transformed that defense. Spent 2023 as defensive coordinator for Giants.
  • Kris Richard: Excellent defensive mind and leader who has coached secondaries and coordinated defenses in Seattle and Dallas. Currently Giants assistant head coach.
  • Sean Desai: Former Bears DC who worked with incoming Raiders HC DeMeco Ryans. Currently a defensive assistant for the Seahawks.

Any of those coaches would likely change Jacksonville’s defensive scheme and approach. Based on Pederson’s comments, major turnover of defensive personnel could also be on the agenda via free agency and the upcoming 2024 NFL draft.

What’s Next for Jaguars After 2023 Disappointment

While missing the playoffs for the 12th consecutive season, there were certainly some bright spots for Jacksonville during the 2023 campaign:

  • Trevor Lawrence’s development: Their franchise QB took a big step forward in year two, cutting down turnovers and showcasing his ability outside the pocket
  • Travis Etienne’s breakout: The second-year back overcame injury to rush for over 1,300 yards and score seven touchdowns
  • Young playmakers emerged: Rookies Devin Lloyd, Chad Muma, and Gregory Junior all look like long-term defensive building blocks

However, winning just seven games after entering the year with legitimate playoff aspirations has left a bitter taste for the Jaguars organization. Especially after losing five straight winnable games down the stretch with a postseason berth within grasp.

Jacksonville now faces a crucial offseason looking to take the next step in 2024. Finding the right defensive coordinator is the first order of business. Upgrading defensive personnel through various avenues will also be a top priority.

The team believes it already has its quarterback and head coach in place. Surrounding those leaders with as much talent as possible on both sides of the ball will determine when playoff football finally returns to Jacksonville.

After coming so achingly close this season, the Jaguars window to win remains right now. But the clock is ticking to make the necessary improvements for a breakthrough in 2024.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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