Last week in “What’s Next” I advocated for more nickel packages out of the Jaguars in 2011. This was mostly due to the gaping hole(s) in the linebacker corps that I saw as more important than the weakness of the secondary: safety. With GM Gene openly stating he’s going after two or more linebackers in free agency, I worry that addressing safety would play second fiddle to pairing Daryl Smith with wingmen. But, if we can believe everything coming out of Jacksonville, I think we should be more confident about our secondary.
Read more to find out why.
The Jags secondary woes started last season with the sudden disappearance of rookie sensation Derek Cox. Cox’s play was mediocre at best and he showed signs of a severe sophomore slump. This was especially disheartening to the Jaguar faithful as there had been worry that Rashean Mathis may not play his best in 2010. Fortunately, Rashean returned to decent form (one pick, one fumble forced, six passes defensed) and relearned how to tackle (58 in 2010, God bless him). Even more fortunate, after experimenting with David Jones and Don Carey, Derek Cox was reinstated and he provided a solid year in 13 games with four picks, eight passes defensed and forty nine tackles (putting him sixth on the team). Even better was his return to solid defensive play that spoke to his tough nature that caused receivers to respect him even after making the catch.
With a return of a consistent Cox in 2011, the opposing receivers should be limited more than last year and Mathis’ numbers should rebound from the more even attention both corners will receive (rather than covering his man and having to worry more about tackling the receiver being covered by Cox/Jones/Carey). Overall, I am not too concerned about the corner position this coming season. The two starters are more than adequate (assuming Cox stays consistent, and the reports on Mathis not having lost a step are accurate), and the depth at the nickel position (Issac, Middleton, Brackenridge, Jones) and beyond is impressive and will be useful.
The worry tends to come with the safety position. Here there is a rotating door of Don Carey, Sean Considine, Courtney Greene, Michael Hamlin, really anybody who can run decently and has a beating heart. Out of the group the two most consistent players are Courtney Greene and Sean Considine. Considine is a journeyman who may have reached his potential already. While he plays solid football (really, he has), the upside on the seven year veteran is not nearly as high as Courtney Greene. Greene won the strong safety spot last year after his punishing play and decent skill development. If the word on the street can be trusted, he is only improving and he will be at least relatively dominant this coming year at his position. But relative to what?
Answer: The other safety.
Follow the analysis of the Jags’ weakest secondary link on the next page.