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D.J. Hayden: Jags will be 'best defense in the league'

D.J. Hayden joined the Jacksonville Jaguars during their down season in 2018. The struggles last year, however, don't diminish the slot corner's expectations for 2019.

"I feel like we're going to be the best defense in the league, I can't wait," Hayden told Gene Frenette of The Florida Times-Union. "I know we'll have some new faces, but I feel like this is going to be a great defense no matter who is out there."

Hayden isn't the only one who projects big things for the Jags' D.

Despite linebacker Telvin Smith stepping away for the season, the Jags still boast playmakers on all three levels. The addition of first-round pick Josh Allen to a front that already possesses Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell should make the Jags' pass rush menacing on QBs.

Injuries to Hayden were part of the reason the Jags' secondary struggled last season. The slot corner, signed to help replace Aaron Colvin, played just 10 games, and the Jags particularly struggled without him on the field. Hayden, who has struggled throughout his career with both health and production, played the best football of his career down the stretch last season -- for context, Pro Football Focus gave Hayden a 74.8 grade last season, by far the best he's generated from PFF and 25th overall among CBs.

In Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye and Hayden, the Jags boast a solid trio, with the two outside corners owning the upside to be the top tandem in the NFL if they remain healthy and return to form. The safety spot sits as a question mark heading into 2019. Youngsters Ronnie Harrison and Jarrod Wilson (combined 10 NFL starts) are slated to start in the two safety spots.

Hayden believes the Jags secondary will get back to their ball-hawking ways this season.

"All that good stuff -- getting turnovers, sacks and making big plays -- I feel like we'll do that," Hayden said. "I feel totally 100 percent comfortable with what we're doing and our safeties. I feel we'll be the best secondary in the league."

Claiming to be the best in the summer is easy. Proving it in the fall is the difficult part.

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