[Editor Note: We are adding Luke Sims to the writing staff. He has a ton of ideas and interesting and informed opinions. I reall look forward to his articles.]
CBS Sports recently published an article in which top Jaguars cornerback, Rashean Mathis, has stated that he will be at training camp and intends to play with the Jaguars this year. This is good news for the Jaguars who are considered lacking in the secondary.
There are some things I won’t believe until I see. Concerning Rashean, there are three options between him and the Jaguars for the 2010 season.
1) Rashean decides not play and holds out for a bigger contract (despite saying that he’ll be playing and that his agent will handle it all).
2) Mathis plays the 2010 season under his current rookie contract extension and is rewarded at the end of the season with a new one or a new contract to be agreed upon either before the season or during the season.
3) Mathis is traded by the Jaguars for nothing less than a second round pick due to his high value.
I’m going to say at this point in time that options 1 is very unlikely and option 3 looks remote although possible under Gene Smith. This is good for the Jaguars, as Mathis is simply too good to not take the field as a Jaguar in 2010.
I do want to point something out I saw in 2009 that I thought was a positive; Rashean was not as respected by opposing quarterbacks as he should have been. Oakland’s Nnamdi Asomugha had 5 passes defended and one interception while Rashean had 10 passes defended and 3 interceptions. Opposing quarterbacks didn’t throw at Asomugha but were not afraid to throw at Rashean. This opened the door for more turnovers for the Jaguars and was definitely a good thing. But why did they throw his way? Could it mean that the other corner(s) were coming on as well? Is it possible that Derek Cox became much more respected later in the season that despite playing only ten games, Mathis was able to generate three picks and defense ten passes? When the opposing quarterback is willing to throw at an elite corner, then you know that your other defensive backs are good.
That brings me to another thing I will need to see to believe; are the Jaguars really as lacking in the secondary as we believe they are?
When Rashean Mathis was out, the Jags were forced to put in Tyron Brackenridge and he was picked on badly by Miami. Whether he has a future as a starter remains to be seen but he might develop. Gerald Alexander got some playing time last season, and I have a lot of hope in Michael Coe, and Don Carey becoming very good. Did I mention Scott Starks, who I believe may be one of the better nickel corners in the league? I am not sure I believe the Jaguars are lacking in secondary talent.
I do have to admit that I must face the fact that the Jaguars were 27th in the league in passing defense. I agree something needs to be fixed, I get that. I still think there is light shining from Jacksonville this offseason!
I am excited by early reports out of camp that have been high on Don Carey. Does he have the ability to be on par with at least Derek Cox come this season? I think he does. Let’s say Don Carey, Tyron Brackenridge, Gerald Alexander and Scott Starks each have a strong camp. Would this lead Gene Smith to consider option number three, trade Rashean Mathis, and begin a new “growing” year for the defense? What would happen if Don Carey and Derek Cox were the starters? This is merely speculation, but the word out of OTAs and last year’s numbers on Cox show that this could be a good move by the top brass in the long run. Keep developing the talent, keep developing the young guys.
But for now, we can sleep easily knowing that Mathis will be coming back this season. We can take hope in knowing the other defensive backs have been showing improvement and have shown that they force quarterbacks to respect them and occasionally throw at Mathis. The best option is this. Rashean comes back and plays great, the new defensive backs get time to develop and some playing time, and then Rashean earns either a new contract or a big free agency payday in the future. Both the Jaguars secondary and Rashean might have a bright future.
Maybe I am too optimistic; after all, my information is based on CBS Sports coverage, so who knows… I need to see Rashean Mathis show up at training camp and I need to see these young players play, but I am not worrying about this area of the team. I don’t think there is any cause for concern.
– Luke N. Sims