While I’ve always had faith in Don Carey (took over the free safety spot midway through last season), his numbers have not been impressive (one pick, 51 tackles). The free safety should be a skilled ballhawk with great recognition, good speed, good hands, and the ability to be in the right place at the right time. I’m willing to give Don Carey a pass from last season because he was asked midway through the season to transition from cornerback to safety which is hard for almost all players. But the coaches seem committed to him and even Maurice Jones-Drew came out in defense of him recently. There must be something in his skill set that the team is excited about and I’m willing to trust them. The challenge will be where Chris Prosinski will fall into place here. If the coaches have enough faith in Carey, Prosinski (a fourth round pick) may challenge for the job but will probably end up riding the bench the first part of the season. The kid out of Wyoming, from what I hear, has a high potential and has the coaches excited.
Based on the solid backup of Prosinski or the solid capability of Carey (at least we know he can be decent depth) as a starter or backup, it may be that the Jaguars’ safety woes aren’t as bad as first thought. But what if the Jags do pursue someone like Eric Weddle (Chargers) or Darren Sharper (Saints)? Of those two options, it really depends on how Prosinski is appearing. While there has been some backlash in the Jag community at recruiting Sharper, the man is a ballhawk machine. And he’s thirty six. Yes, I do think this is a good thing. Sharper has had a stellar career with the Packers, Vikings, and Saints. His knowledge and experience is incredible. For that alone his value increases dramatically with his ability to mentor either Carey or Prosinski. On top of that, if he can return to 2009 form (nine picks, 15 passes defensed, 71 tackles) he will be a huge upgrade at free safety. And he’ll be gone in a year, two tops, hopefully with a hot and ready Prosinski behind him. If the Jags pursue Eric Weddle, however, they will be getting a solid player gifted in tackling (95 in 2010) that can play solid safety for many years to come. So, where’s the tradeoff? Do you get Weddle for his solid play and hope he has an extra gear? or do you go after Sharper, hope for a year of superb play and trust Prosinski to develop underneath him? or do you stick with what you’ve got and hope Prosinski’s learning curve is short and quick or Carey improves?
Based on GM Gene’s plans, I say we end up with Weddle. If it were up to me, however, I would pursue Sharper and, if we don’t don’t get him, I’d hope for the best with Carey and Prosinski. It’s not a matter of being cheap, it’s a matter of trusting your coaching staff to prepare a half year position player and a rookie to play a tough position.
No matter what happens at free safety, I think the Jaguars secondary is looking pretty solid for this coming year. You don’t have to believe me though. Just watch 2011 unfold, and when the Jag D is suddenly well above 28th, don’t be shocked.
– Luke N. sims