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Saturday, March 8, 2014
Bryant first step in fixing run defense

By Michael DiRocco

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars’ signing of defensive end Red Bryant is the team’s first step toward fixing one of the NFL’s worst run defenses.

Bryant
Jacksonville ranked 29th in the league in rush defense (131.8 yards per game) and gave up at least 150 yards rushing seven times in 2013. Six-foot-4, 323-pound Bryant, who began his career as a tackle before moving to end in 2010, will add some much-needed bulk up front and help on the edge of the defense.

The spot Bryant will play is opposite the leo, which is a hybrid end/linebacker whose main responsibility is rushing the passer. The opposite end’s priority is to act as a run-stuffer while also providing some pass rush. Tyson Alualu held that spot last season and did a solid job, making 44 tackles and recording 1.5 sacks and eight quarterback pressures.

Then-Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley moved Bryant from tackle to end in 2010, and Bryant thrived in that role from 2011 to 2013, making 87 tackles and serving as an anchor of the defensive line, and Bradley is hoping he can do the same thing in Jacksonville.

Bryant is a better player than 6-3, 295-pound Alualu, who has never lived up to his status as the No. 10 pick in 2010 and likely will take over as the starter. Alualu has one more season remaining on his rookie contract with a cap hit of $4.164 million, but it seems unlikely the team would release him.

The Jaguars’ rush defense was horrible in the first half of the season (161.8 yards per game). It did get better in the second half of the season, limiting opponents to less than 100 yards rushing in Weeks 10-14 before injuries along the defensive line and at linebacker limited the defense. The Jaguars gave up 461 yards on the ground in the final three weeks.

Addressing the offensive and defensive lines is the team’s top priority in free agency. The signing of Bryant has given the Jaguars a head start.