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Playin Nice: Big Cat Country

Big Cat Country’s Ryan O’Bleness tells us what to expect from K’Lavon Chaisson’s rookie season

NFL Combine - Day 3 Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

1. Last year in the first round the Jags took Kentucky’s Josh Allen. This year they took Chaisson to, I assume, pair opposite of Allen. What about Chaisson stands out to you?

At first I was somewhat surprised by the pick, as I expected the Jaguars to go after bigger needs such as wide receiver, defensive tackle or offensive line with the No. 20 overall pick (after selecting cornerback C.J. Henderson with the No. 9 pick). However, it did not take very long for me to get excited about Chaisson, not long at all.

The first thing that caught my attention about Chaisson is his freak athleticism: speed, power, length, explosiveness — he seems to check all of the boxes there. The second thing that stands out to me his is versatility. I expect him to line up all over the field for the Jaguars, as a true linebacker, defensive end, standup edge rusher, etc. The final thing that stands out to me, and perhaps most importantly, is his character, maturity and leadership, all of which are traits the Jaguars are desperately seeking from their players after several tumultuous situations have taken place in the locker room over the past couple of seasons. I know, just from my limited understanding of LSU athletics, how big of an honor it is to wear the No. 18 jersey, so he must be a truly special player and person.

Jacksonville was incredibly high on Chaisson, and was ready to take him with the ninth overall selection had Henderson been gone (even if Isaiah Simmons were still available). Luckily, he fell into Dave Caldwell’s and Doug Marrone’s laps at No. 20. I foresee Chaisson and Allen making life miserable for a lot of quarterbacks and opposing offenses in the near future, and if the Jaguars are able to reconcile things with Yannick Ngakoue, then the NFL better be ready because that is going to be a ferocious pass rushing trio.

2. I remember the Broncos won Super Bowl 50 thanks in large part to having two awesome bookend pass rushers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. Is Jacksonville hoping to create something similar with Chaisson and Allen?

I think the Jaguars are definitely trying to rebuild the team with strong defense, and particularly a fierce pass rush — much like how the team was built in 2017 when Jaguars made an AFC Championship run (nicknamed “Sacksonville”). I don’t think it would be quite fair to compare Allen and Chaisson to Ware and Miller just yet, but if that is what the duo ends up becoming then I think we can surely look at that as a success. Chaisson and Allen both have All-Pro potential like Ware and Miller, but a lot of factors have to go right for that kind of success: health, good coaching, development, more play-makers around them, more overall team success etc. I would certainly be happy if that is the case, though!

3. You asked me what spot in Jacksonville’s front seven would be best for Chaisson. Well, let me turn the question around on you, where is it looking like Chaisson might be playing if and when we have a season?

As I alluded to above, I think Jacksonville plans to take advantage of Chaisson’s versatility and use him all over the field. The Jaguars have played in a 4-3 base defense for the past several seasons, but given players like Chaisson coming in, are planning to shift to a 3-4 scheme or a multiple scheme that incorporates both alignments in 2020. The team will also continue to play out of a lot of nickel packages. So it depends what the situation and defensive alignment is on the field, but my best guess would be that if the Jags were to go to a 3-4, Chaisson will be in a two-point stance as a standup edge rusher (likely with Allen on the other side in the same role), in a 4-3 alignment he may play the strong-side (SAM) linebacker role and in other situations, we could even see him with his hand in the dirt as a true defensive end. His main job will be to rush the quarterback and set the edge, which he can do very well, it seems.

I wouldn’t expect him to be an every down player to start, however. Last year, Allen only played about 60 percent of the defensive snaps, as the Jaguars wanted to develop him, rather than just throw him into the fire, yet he still produced a team-leading 10.5 sacks and 39 quarterback pressures. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Jags ease Chaisson along in the same manner before turning him loose.

4. What would constitute a successful rookie season for K’Lavon Chaisson?

I think, with the Jaguars in somewhat of a roster retool, the team isn’t going to find a whole lot of success on the field this year. Like I said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Chaisson eased into the action, either. So, personally, I’m not necessarily looking for gaudy sack and tackles for loss numbers from Chaisson, but I am looking for him to help the Jaguars build the foundation. I don’t know how to measure that, per se, but if he stays healthy, shows improvement throughout the year, makes plays when he has the opportunity to do so and eventually becomes a young leader for this team, that would be successful in my book. From a statistical standpoint, I think anywhere from six to eight sacks is a realistic goal, and anything after that is gravy, but again that isn’t the end-all, be-all metric Jags fans will be looking for from him during his rookie campaign.

5. Lastly, according to a rumor I just made up is it true Jacksonville’s first round picks get unlimited play time in the stadium’s swimming pool?

Haha, I don’t technically have the authorization to grant this, but if it were up to me, I would allow Chaisson one whole pool day, in lieu of practice, for every sack he gets this season. Just kidding, he better be on that practice field. #DUUUVAL