AFC South Q&A: Does improved defense make Jaguars division contenders?

Ad Pro Test Clip 44 - March 2017 (1:29)

Ad Pro Test Clip 44 - March 2017 (1:29)

Today's question: The Jacksonville Jaguars have improved significantly on offense, but the defense has been among the league's worst over the past three seasons. The Jaguars recorded the fewest interceptions in the NFL (26) and ranked 31st in scoring defense (27.3 points per game), 31st in third-down defense (43.8 percent) and 29th in total defense (375.0 yards per game) during that span. They added two key free agents in DT Malik Jackson and FS Tashaun Gipson and drafted CB Jalen Ramsey and LB Myles Jack in the first two rounds. Have the Jaguars improved enough defensively to be a legitimate contender in the division?

Tania Ganguli, Houston Texans reporter: The Jaguars' defense will be much better, especially in the second half of the season, as their talented young players start to click. I'm sure a massive exhale followed news that first-round pick Jalen Ramsey would be back in time for training camp. They'll get back outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr., last year's first-round pick, whose path to stardom was delayed by a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Even with all of their issues last season, the Jaguars had a shot at the division title. But with the Texans having improved offensively and the Colts getting quarterback Andrew Luck healthy again, it will take more than defensive improvement to truly make a run for the division. They were in the bottom half of the league in QBR, overall yards per game, rushing yards per game, sacks allowed per attempt, third down efficiency and red zone efficiency.

Paul Kuharsky, Tennessee Titans reporter: Yes. I don't think I'll be picking the Jaguars to win the division, but I think all four teams have gotten better. There could be two playoff teams, and I think Jacksonville might be one of them. The Jaguars have six new starters on defense, with a giant overhaul of the defensive backs, a pass-rush injection featuring youth and experience and a linebacker who might be the steal of the draft if he's healthy. There isn't a bad team in the league that wouldn't have liked to have had the new pool of players the Jaguars collected. There needs to be jelling and cohesion, but if the talent comes packaged in the right personalities, they have a lot to be excited about and the production should skyrocket.

Mike Wells, Indianapolis Colts reporter: Yes. Let me say it again: Yes!!! The Jaguars continue to add pieces so that the defense can keep up with the offense. (There's a certain NFL team in Indianapolis that should do the same thing.) Not only did the Jaguars swipe defensive lineman Malik Jackson away from Denver during free agency, they also wisely selected defensive back Jalen Ramsey in the first round, linebacker Myles Jack, who has top-10 talent, in the second round. And you can't forget that last year's first-round pick, Dante Fowler Jr., will be back after missing his entire rookie season. Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley should be the happiest person inside the organization because defense is his strong suit and he has the pieces to make them a formidable unit.