JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The rumblings started last year after the Jacksonville Jaguars scooped up edge rusher Josh Allen when he fell to No. 7 in the first round of the NFL draft. The Jaguars should switch from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4.
That idea gathered momentum this spring when the Jaguars signed Cassius Marsh in free agency and drafted linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson with the 20th overall pick of the first round. Both players, like Allen, are versatile enough to rush the passer and drop in coverage, which is exactly what you want your 3-4 outside linebackers to do.
Defensive coordinator Todd Wash nixed the idea of a scheme change, however, saying the defense will have some subtle changes but remains, at heart, a 4-3 alignment. But he is excited about tinkering with Allen, Marsh, Chaisson and former Bears defensive end Aaron Lynch, whom the Jaguars added in early May.
And especially Chaisson, a former LSU standout who while still in high school drew comparisons athletically and skill-wise to Jevon Kearse. The former Titans and Eagles defensive end was a three-time Pro Bowler and holds the NFL record for most sacks as a rookie (14.5 in 1999). One of the things the Jaguars like most about the 6-foot-3, 254-pound Chaisson is that he doesn't want to be pigeonholed into one spot.
Chaisson wants to play all over, and it certainly sounds as if the Jaguars plan to utilize him that way.
"He can play that [strongside] linebacker position in base downs and he can rush the quarterback. He can rush the quarterback from a two-point stance, and you could argue whether he's a better rusher out of a three-point stance," general manager Dave Caldwell said. "... We have three guys that can play the zone-read stuff when they're trying to really put the pressure on those defensive ends. K'Lavon can play special teams for us, too. There's so much he can contribute because of his height, weight, speed and what he can do."
Caldwell got that message from Chaisson at the combine, too. That was where Chaisson, when meeting with the media, said he was the most versatile player in the draft. He compared it to being a job candidate who speaks multiple languages -- companies would naturally want the candidate who is more versatile.
And Chaisson is definitely confident he can do it all: rush the quarterback, drop in coverage and play the run.
"I obviously feel like my best spot right now is rushing the quarterback," Chaisson said. "I feel like when in doubt put me in and I'll get to the quarterback. But I feel like my versatility is so critical. I'm not saying I'm like Tyrann Mathieu, but I play like him, and you never know where he's at on the field. He plays different positions: back end, corner, safety or whatever the case may be.
"Players like that are critical in today's game. And I feel like my versatility allows me that, but at the same time, whichever the Jaguars want me to play, I'm willing to do without hesitation."
Yannick Ngakoue would be asked to do the same things if he were to actually be on the field for the Jaguars this fall, but whether that happens is still unclear. The Jaguars used the franchise tag on Ngakoue even though he has said multiple times he does not want to play for the franchise. Ngakoue had hoped to be traded before the NFL draft, but the Jaguars did not receive any offers.
Caldwell said after the draft that the team was planning on Ngakoue being on the roster in 2020. However, Ngakoue has still not signed the franchise tag offer sheet and, if no teams call to try to work out a deal, might be faced with a major decision: sign and play for the Jaguars or sit out and give up $17.8 million, which would be his salary this season.
As for Chaisson, the Jaguars have started him off at strongside linebacker with Marsh. Provided he progresses according to schedule, he'll be the starter there alongside middle linebacker Joe Schobert and weakside linebacker Myles Jack. Depending on the defense called, Chaisson -- who had 42 pressures, 9.5 sacks and five pass breakups in 25 games at LSU -- could line up on the line of scrimmage or a few yards off, and he could rush, play the run or drop in coverage from either spot.
Allen will be lined up at defensive end on the opposite side and gives the Jaguars the same options. It makes it much easier for the Jaguars to disguise what their front will be doing on any given play.
"You will see some different fronts, but we want to still continue to give teams a lot of multiple looks," Wash said. "Most importantly, we want to put the players on our roster in a position to be successful in any scheme that they fit."
Chaisson, like Allen, fits them all.