JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars defensive players are embracing the nickname "Sacksonville," which was bestowed upon the unit by the team’s official Twitter account after sacking Houston quarterbacks 10 times in the season opener.
While they’re having fun with it, they also know that to make the change of address permanent, they have to follow up last week's performance with another good one on Sunday against Tennessee.
And the week after that. And the week after that. And...
“Yeah, that’s pretty dope,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “I liked it [Sacksonville] a lot. Hopefully we can keep it going. Like I said, it doesn’t mean anything though if you don’t go out there and produce the next time. You’re only as good as your latest memory, so week in and week out, you’ve got to go out and make it happen.”
Campbell had four of the 10 sacks -- a career-high and franchise record -- which would make him the unofficial mayor of Sacksonville. He’s clearly the leader of a defense that many believed would become one of the NFL’s better units in 2017, especially if the Jaguars could find a way to be more effective rushing the passer.
His arrival in March might have been the catalyst.
End Yannick Ngakoue set the franchise single-season rookie record with eight sacks last season, but end Dante Fowler Jr. was disappointing in 2016. The third overall pick in 2015, who missed his rookie season with a torn ACL, had just four sacks and has been known more for his off-field issues than any success he’s had on the field. The Jaguars hoped that Campbell would make an immediate impact.
Campbell has been remarkably consistent as a pass-rusher -- at least six sacks in seven of the past eight seasons -- but his reputation as a great leader also excited coach Doug Marrone. The defense needed that, especially the young edge rushers.
“Couldn’t ask for anything better,” Marrone said. “... He hit every nail on the head, so I couldn’t be more pleased. I really couldn’t. I think he’s outstanding.”
The Jaguars’ defensive players certainly responded to Campbell in the locker room, but they said they don’t necessarily feed off him on the field. They say they feed off the energy the entire unit creates, which was considerable against the Texans, with 10 sacks and four turnovers.
“You want the whole defensive line to be feared as well as the back end,” said Ngakoue, who had two sacks, two forced fumbles (one of which was returned for a touchdown) and a fumble recovery. “You want everybody to be feared, not just one man. It’s all 11.”
Indeed, some of the sacks were coverage sacks created by cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye handling the outside and safeties Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church eliminating big plays in the middle of the field.
“Those guys are very special and that made it easy for us,” Campbell said. “If we can get that every week, there’s going to be a lot of sacks in this building.”
If that’s the case, maybe Sacksonville will become more than just a nickname.
“It’s a standard identity we’re trying to get here,” Ngakoue said. “We just make plays, man. We just get to the ball.”