Over the past few seasons there have been a lot of good players that the Jaguars organization have been high on. D’Anthony Smith, Jarrett Dillard, the great Aaron Kampman. The list continues on. Occasionally good production can be achieved from these players for a few games, but it is all lost a few weeks down the road when the dreaded report that they’ve been placed on Injured Reserve comes out.
As good as these players are, is it really worth it to keep paying for them to take up roster space on the final 53 man roster then being forced to rely on the depth beneath them when they inevitably go down? Fortunately I’m not in the unenviable position of having to make those decisions following off-season camps. Here at B&T, I get to sit back in the comfort of my home and propose changes that I see benefiting the team.
We’ll look at five players who may not be worth keeping around for 2012 due to their injury history:
DT D’Anthony Smith
- When Smith was drafted in 2010, he was supposed to be the perfect rotation piece for Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton. He provided an explosive presence that could work both sides of the defensive tackle spot and could excel at collapsing the pocket’s interior. However, injuries have derailed his potential and placed him on IR each year. His career statistics thus far run like this: 0 games, 0 tackles, 0 sacks. While his potential is recognized and seems to have a high ceiling, a player that isn’t on the field isn’t much of an asset.
RT Eben Britton
- Eben Britton was to be the bookend complement of Eugene Monroe for the Jaguars for the next decade. His work ethic was unstoppable, his potential limitless, and he was able to pave the road for Maurice Jones-Drew effectively while protecting an oft-scrambling David Garrard. Unfortunately, Britton’s three seasons have been limited by injuries. He played in 15 games in 2009 (his rookie season), seven in 2010, and five in 2011. While he may have a shot at keeping his right tackle spot one last time in 2012, Britton’s bench warming experience will surpass his playing time if he goes down again and he may have to become a very capable backup (when healthy) or be let go in the coming months.
CB Rashean Mathis
- Rashean has been a steady presence in the Jaguars defensive backfield since 2003. His 30 interceptions have been electrifying and he has been a highly underrated cover corner who is worthy of being in the discussion with the best in the league when he’s healthy. Unfortunately he hasn’t been healthy in a long time. In 2009 he mentioned how it was great to be healthy again before a season. In 2010 he completed a full 16 games for the first time since 2006. This return to success and play making was short lived however and he went down with injury and played a meager nine games in 2011. The last two seasons have resulted in a mere two interceptions to boot. With a hefty $4+ million price tag, it’s unlikely that he will be worth keeping in 2012. The Jags will look for higher productivity and sustainability from younger corners so they don’t have to dip into an already shallow cornerback depth pool.
WR Jarett Dillard
- Jarett Dillard has been the darling of Gene Smith since he was selected in the 5th round of the 2009 draft. He has flashed superb potential and has managed to make himself appear so good during the underwear league in the offseason that the front office seems to think he’s worth keeping around. Dillard saw action in five games in 2009 and racked up all of six catches for 106 yards. He missed all of 2010 with injury. 2011 rolled around and Dillard started five games, played in 14, and grabbed 29 catches for 292 yards. Outside of his brilliant potential and 11.4 yards per catch, he hasn’t displayed much that makes him worth keeping around. A fragile wide receiver who never reaches his potential is not worth the investment in the NFL. Gene Smith should note this and take Dillard off the team in 2012 when he revamps the receiving corps.
DE Aaron Kampman
- Aaron Kampman has been a brilliant defensive end. He played great ball in Green Bay, but with an ACL tear they figured it was time to move past the late 20s intimidator. The Jags picked him up only to have him tear his other ACL in 2010 after eight games. His four sacks were leading the way the for the Jaguars and his mentorship position was becoming firmly established with the team. Fast forward to 2011 and Kampman looked like a shell of his former, dominating self. He failed to make himself a factor in the three games he got time in, despite the Jags reformatting the defensive line’s rotation to keep his (and others’) legs fresh, and ended up on injured reserve once again. If he doesn’t make himself indispensable in the offseason at some point, look for him to be on his way out. Especially with the $4.6 million owed him in 2012. I think he can probably argue that he’s practically a coach to the “Rushmen” and that he can help establish a solid pass rushing mentality with the Jags, but he has to make that known to Gene Smith this offseason if he wants to stick around.
Of the players listed above, I can’t see any of them coming back except Kampman and Mathis. Britton has not been the same player as he was when he was originally drafted before injury, D’Anthony Smith has yet to see the field and probably won’t be able to keep pace two years removed from competitive football, and the Dillard experiment has been tried three times with no charm. Kampman is able to play the mentorship role and the “Rushmen” have had a noticeable spark since he joined in 2010. While it can’t be contributed entirely to Kampman (the coaching staff under Joe Cullen has done a pretty solid job), his presence would be sorely missed if he was dismissed this offseason. Mathis is also probable to come back with a draft class that hasn’t been proven to be excessively deep at the position. His talent level is considerably higher than the players behind him on the depth chart and the players that could be acquired in free agency will need time to grow into the system under Mel Tucker. Another year laden with incentives may be in the future for the perennial Mathis.
– Luke N. Sims