After we investigated all the three parts of the defense (defensive line, linebackers and secondary), we can now make a conclusion as to where the Jaguars fans can see hope; and where they must worry. So in the first part, let’s look at my take on the strength Jaguars defense. Tomorrow, we will look at areas of concern.
The linebackers: All three positions, the entire area is looking better then ever. The Jaguars have finally found their new MLB: Kirk Morrison. Daryl Smith can return his real position; strong-side LB and for the 3rd starting spot there will be a huge competition between Justin Durant and Russell Allen. I project that Durant will earn the job (He is in his contract year). The Jaguars then have two quality backup LBs in Allen and Freddie Keiaho. I think we can feel very good about this area.
Daryl brings down Chris Johnson Source: Yardbarker
Defensive end depth: Can you imagine w would say that? All of sudden the Jaguars have depth on the defensive line. Aaron Kampman; Derrick Harvey; Reggie Hayward; Larry Hart; and Austen Lane (I could name players like Jeremy Mincey or Julius Williams but I think they have very little chance to make the team). That factor alone I think shows us that the pressure on the quarterback will be much; much better than in the last 23 years. (Wow, am I exaggerating?) But there is one more thing…
Joe Cullen: I’m not a big fan of calling for the head of coaches but even before the horrible 14 sacks season I would loved it if Ted Monachino would not have been one of the Jaguars coaches. The reason was simple, I saw no improvement in players like Derrick Harvey and I saw no sign of any progress in the pass rush. I think that will change with new D-line coach oe Cullen. We here at Black&Teal talked more about Joe then any other coaches outside Jack Del Rio. That alone show the fact how important his role will be in the new season. We hope Joe is really as good as his reputation as a pass rush specialist (and the early signs –just read what he said to Harvey at mini camp:
It’s time to get double-digit sacks around here Harv, Not four sacks. That’s what you were brought here to do: Rush”)
The front seven: Everyone; who looked a little deeper in the personal changes at the defense is saying that the whole unit especially the front 7 will look completely different in ’10 then it looked in ’09. I agree with this. I think we will not see often what we saw for example in Cleveland; that the defense is a non factor in that game. We will not see I think back to back 35 points scored by the opposite team (like in Week 15&16 last season).
Jack Del Rio expecting that his defense will to be at least a Top 10 ranked unit; but he expects even more from them, a run in the playoffs. If the Jaguars can reach that turnaround and actually will becoming a Top 10 defense; I think this team will be a serious playoff contender.
Now I give you a little extra: I give out my rates of the Jaguars starters at defense. Here is how I grade the players:
The rating system might look like this:
4 stars – Top player in the NFL, a play maker
3 stars – Solid player, no concerns
2 stars – Just a guy
1 star – Something needs done with this player if he is a starter.
Defensive line starters ratings:
Derrick Harvey – 2.5 stars ( I think in the end of the season we will know is he just a guy –bust- or he is a really good player)
Terrance Knighton – 3 stars (For now; but he must get back his ’09 season early shape; and must produce at least on the level he played in his rookie season)
Tyson Alualu- ??? (He has not played a snap in the NFL yet; and he must earn 3 stars in his rookie campaign or Gene Smith will face serious criticism)
Aaron Kampman 3.5 stars (If he is 100% recovered from his ACL for this season; he can take back his 4 star status)
Overall Unit 3.0 stars, potential 3.5 stars.
Daryl Smith 4 stars (another underrated Jaguars player who was the defensive MVP last year and has always performed on the high level. The best LB from a very strong group)
Kirk Morrison: 3 stars (only his pass coverage problems prevents him from a better grade)
Justin Durant: 3 stars (I think he will earn his starter role during OTAs and mini camp. He is in his contract year; if he is 100% healthy; and can avoid injuries; expect big thing from him)
Overall Unit: 3.5 stars
Well that is all the strength I see in the Jaguar defense. Tomorrow we look at the concerns and rate the secondary and project the overall defense. Have a great day!
– Zoltan Paksa