Wash didn’t even leave a smidgen of wiggle room.
“We are a 4-3,” Wash said. “That is what we always have been. As long as I’m here, that’s what we will be.”
And: “Josh Allen was drafted to be a defensive end.”
It should bring an end to the speculation that the Jaguars would undergo a defensive overhaul. That all started in February, when the Jaguars hired longtime NFL coach Dom Capers to be a senior defensive assistant; and it intensified when the Jaguars snapped up Allen, who played linebacker at Kentucky, with the seventh overall pick in late April.
On the surface, the speculation about a defensive switch made sense. In addition to twice being a head coach in the NFL, Capers served as a defensive coordinator for four teams (including the Jaguars in 1999-2000 under then head coach Tom Coughlin) and ran a 3-4 scheme in each stop. He had a lot of success with it too.
In his three seasons as Pittsburgh’s defensive coordinator (1992-94), the Steelers ranked second, ninth and second in scoring. His Jaguars defense in 1999 led the league in scoring and was fourth in yards allowed, though those rankings dropped to 12th and 16th the following season.
Capers spent one season as the defensive coordinator in Miami (2007). The Dolphins gave up the third-most points in the league, and the entire coaching staff was fired after the season.
When Capers was hired in Green Bay in 2009, he scrapped the 4-3 the Packers had used since 1992. His first two defenses ranked seventh and second in scoring, then finished in the top 15 in that category in three of the next seven seasons. Mike McCarthy fired Capers after the 2017 season, in which the Packers finished 26th in scoring, 22nd in total defense and 23rd in pass defense.
Despite the way his time in Green Bay ended, Capers is regarded as one of the top defensive coordinators in NFL history. The Jaguars brought him on board full time to help Wash get the defense back to the level it was in 2017, when Jacksonville finished second in interceptions and sacks and first in pass defense. Capers had served as a consultant in 2018.
“We’ve got a great working relationship,” Wash said of Capers. “Obviously, he’s been in the league one or two years longer than I have, or 102 years longer than I have, but it’s a great working relationship, and we dealt with each other all last year. So, I’m glad that he chose us with the other opportunities that he had, and he’ll be a great addition to the staff.
“Obviously he’s still learning our system and what we do. We’re not changing. That’s not what we’re going to do. We’re going to run our defense, and if that’s not good enough for the Jaguars, then somebody else will run the defense. We’re going to do what we do, but when Dom is in there, he goes, ‘I think this is some of the stuff we’ve done in different places that can add to your package.’ Sometimes I say, ‘That’s good.’ Sometimes I say, ‘No, that doesn’t fit.’ He just gives another set of eyes with experience, and we’re very, very fortunate to have him.”
The Jaguars also are fortunate to have Allen. It was a surprise that he was available when it was the Jaguars’ turn to make their first-round pick, and they quickly snatched up the 2018 SEC defensive player of the year.
Almost immediately the questions started: Allen was an outside linebacker at Kentucky, so where would he play in Jacksonville? Would the Jaguars switch to a 3-4?
Speculation intensified even more when the Jaguars listed him as a defensive end/linebacker on the roster.
However, that was for a simple reason: Allen wanted to wear No. 41, and defensive linemen are limited to Nos. 50-79 and 90-99.
Allen will line up at defensive end opposite Yannick Ngakoue in sub packages and also will spell Ngakoue and Calais Campbell at times in the Jaguars’ base defense. And while he might be asked to occasionally drop into coverage, don’t expect Allen to line up as a strongside linebacker.
“He has a good base knowledge, especially in some of the stuff we ask him to do as a defensive end, which is an outside linebacker in some of the things that we do,” Wash said. “He has a real good base knowledge of everything. I think he’s going to learn how to play with his hand on the ground.
“I honestly can’t say, being a D-line coach, that I get too excited about a 15-sack guy dropping into coverage. Hopefully, you won’t see too damn much of that.”