JACKSONVILLE – Roy Robertson-Harris introduced his nine-month-old son to his new town, and an explanation was necessary.
“I swear we didn’t name him two days ago,” Robertson-Harris said.
The reason was his son’s name, Jax – that’s right, J-A-X. But while Robertson-Harris smilingly acknowledged the coincidence early in his introductory video conference Thursday, the Jaguars’ new defensive end spent more time discussing his new position group. And make no mistake:
He understands the group’s importance, and he’s absolutely excited about its potential.
“It starts up front with the defensive line,” Robertson-Harris said.
Robertson-Harris, who spent his first five seasons with the Chicago Bears, was among four defensive linemen among the Jaguars’ 12 veteran acquisitions this week. They also acquired Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Tyson Alualu and Baltimore Ravens defensive end Jihad Ward as free agents and traded with the New Orleans Saints for defensive tackle Malcom Brown.
The team also re-signed defensive end Dawuane Smoot and has defensive end/tackle Taven Bryan and three 2020 rookies – nose tackle DaVon Hamilton, tackle Daniel Ekuale and tackle Doug Costin – returning.
“We’re trying to rebuild a program, and it starts up front,” said Robertson-Harris, who missed time with a shoulder issue last season but who said Friday he will be medically cleared for the Jaguars’ offseason program. “You can’t have a great defense without a great D-line. I think it’s going to be a great front that we have.”
Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer, hired in January, said last week – a week before free agency began — that building the defensive front was an offseason priority. The team finished 28th and 30th in the NFL against the run in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
“We’re going to be stout up front,” Robertson-Harris said. “Stop the run, obviously that’s the main goal. First and second down, being stout up front and being able to earn the right to rush the passer. You have to stop the run. There are great running backs out there, and we’re going to be able to play well against them.”
Robertson-Harris said he looked forward to playing under defensive coordinator Joe Cullen, the defensive line coach the last five seasons in Baltimore – where the Ravens played a hybrid, aggressive scheme with many three-linemen, four-linebacker looks.
“I’ve been able to do my homework, and I know how he runs his defensive ends,” Robertson-Harris said. “I had some insight into how I would play. It’s a great opportunity. I feel like my career could really take off here.”
Like Robertson-Harris, cornerback Shaquill Griffin and safety Rayshawn Jenkins toured TIAA Bank Field and spoke to the media Thursday. The latter two have a strong, long connection – having played on the same little league football team growing up in Pinellas County, Florida. Jenkins said that team – the Lakewood Junior Spartans – won three championships. “They couldn’t deal with us,” he said, adding of reuniting with Griffin: “It’s just unreal. It’s unbelievable actually. Even our city, it was a big deal for our city just seeing us get to be on the same team again and just having someone that you’ve known all your life on the same team with you. That makes a difference as well, so that’s pretty cool. I know what type of mindset he has, he knows what type of mindset I have, so that’ll be easy. The chemistry’s already there.”
Griffin, perhaps the highest-profile of the Jaguars’ 12 veteran acquisitions this week, spent his first four seasons with the Seattle Seahawks and began his career playing in the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom secondary. “It’s always something that they had going on already and now I’ve got a chance to be a part of something great, something new, something different that we can call our own,” he said. “So, I’m excited about that. I think that’s the most exciting thing – writing my own journey, my own story with an organization that truly believes in me, the same way I believe in them.”
Robertson-Harris, asked if there were players after whom he has modeled his game, mentioned former Jaguars Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell. Robertson-Harris is 6-feet-5 and Campbell is 6-feet-8. “He’s a taller body, so being able to watch him do the things he does at such height … I try to model myself after him, being an inside guy and moving in and out.”
Griffin on playing in his home state of Florida after four seasons with Seattle: “It just feels good. It feels right to be back in Florida. I had a conversation with my mom earlier, on the way here, and she was asking me how I felt. And the only words I had [were] that it feels right.”