Jags fire defensive coordinator Babich
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley plans to get more involved with the defense.
He might have to now.
Bradley fired defensive coordinator Bob Babich on Tuesday, one day after saying he wouldn’t rule out taking over play-calling duties next season.
”I think the obligation is (to) do what’s best for this organization, and that’s why I really want to gather all the information, see what’s best, and go from there,” said Bradley, hinting that other staff changes could be coming.
Bradley needed to try something different, especially because his fourth season will be a make-or-break effort for the former Seattle defensive coordinator. Jacksonville’s defense has regressed during Bradley’s tenure and was the main issue in the Jaguars (5-11) losing five of their final six games while missing the playoffs for the eighth consecutive year.
The Jags are a paltry 12-36 in Bradley’s three seasons, and although they made significant strides on the offensive side of the ball, they were among the worst in the league on the other side.
They had three of the worst defensive seasons in franchise history during Babich’s tenure.
They managed 36 sacks, including 11 from defensive ends, and nine interceptions in 2015. They ranked next to last in the league in stopping teams on third down and finished one point shy of tying the franchise record for points allowed, 449 set in 2013. That was Bradley’s first season, the one in which Jacksonville installed a new scheme, jettisoned several veterans and fielded a team fit for expansion.
”We’ve got a lot of work to do,” defensive tackle Roy Miller said. ”Obviously, some changes will happen with personnel. We’ve got to get a lot better. There were too many busts in coverages and too many missed tackles. Things that you see in the NFL – Football 101 – just aren’t that way with us. … It’s unacceptable.”
Team owner Shad Khan made it clear when he announced that Bradley would return last week that improvements were needed. The question is whether it can be a quick fix. Bradley believes so.
The Jaguars, who have several building blocks, hold the fifth pick in the draft – they’re in the top 10 for the ninth consecutive year and in the top five for the fifth straight year – and plan to spend big in free agency. Jacksonville is more than $40 million under the projected salary cap, and will get standout defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks (triceps) and rookie defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (knee), the third overall selection in 2015, back on the field soon.
But they need to find two more defensive ends, a linebacker, a cornerback and a free safety, and have to get all the new pieces up to speed.
And now they need a new coordinator – unless Bradley takes over.
”It’s going to be a bright season for us,” cornerback Aaron Colvin said. ”No matter what the outside may see or whatever they may think, we know what’s going to happen. When it comes, it’s going to come fast and it’s going to be a takeover.”
Here are some other things to know about the Jaguars as they head into the offseason:
BORTLES’ BREAKOUT: Quarterback Blake Bortles had a breakout season, throwing for 35 touchdowns and 4,428 yards – both franchise records. But he also led the league with 18 interceptions, four of those returned for touchdowns. He hopes cutting down on the costly mistakes will be the next step in his progression. ”There’s a chance that I could never throw for 35 touchdowns in a season again and have way better years than this year,” he said.
WOE LINE: The Jaguars reduced their sacks allowed from a franchise-record 71 in 2014 to 51 this season, but it’s still way too high. Guard Brandon Linder’s return from a shoulder injury should help in 2016, but the unit also could be looking for its fifth position coach in as many years if Doug Marrone gets a head coaching job.
MYERS MISSES: Rookie Jason Myers led the league with seven missed extra points, but he made his final 13 field-goal attempts. He ended up hitting 26 of 30 field goals on the season, an 86.7 percent clip that ranks fourth on the franchise’s all-time list.
GOING, GOING: Several guys have played their final game for the Jaguars. The list likely includes punter Bryan Anger, defensive end Andre Branch, defensive end Chris Clemons and center Stefan Wisniewski. Anger, Branch and Wisniewski are free agents.
PLAYOFF DROUGHT: The Jaguars have missed the postseason 14 of the last 16 years, with 11 of those ending with losing records.
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