The Jaguars had one of the worst secondaries in the NFL last year. I’m not talking about the starting lineup. It’s tough to argue against a healthy Rashean Mathis, Derek Cox, Dawan Landry, and Dwight Lowery holding down the tail end of the defense. But the depth was horrendous.
Despite fielding the 6th best defense in the NFL during the 2011 season, the Jags needed to improve in secondary depth over the offseason. After Cox and Mathis went down with injury in weeks six and nine it became tough for this defense to rebound. Starting Ashton Youboty is no substitue for the two corners the Jaguars have grown to love having on the field. A rotation of Kevin Rutland (who did ok actually), Chris Prosinski (a rookie safety), Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, William Middleton (who we all kind of like), and Morgan Trent just isn’t the same as having a perennial start and brilliant up and comer locking down the outside and Dwight Lowery roaming the middle.
Fortunately Dawan Landry was able to hold down the end for all 16 games, providing some stability.
But that’s going to change in 2012. Not the Dawan Landry part (well, maybe) but the constant rotation of defensive backs to fill holes.
The Jags have word that Rashean Mathis is healthy and is competing for about four million dollars he can make based on incentives. If that doesn’t motivate you to stay on the field, I don’t know what will. He’s also competing for his starting spot with recently signed Giants corner Aaron Ross who should provide some much needed competition.
On the other side, Derek Cox appears to have his position locked down. William Middleton and Drew Coleman won’t be competing against him for his startin spot and if he remains healthy he should see the best year of his career since his rookie season.
But the Jags still need a real cornerback to backup Cox. Will Middleton is a good player for all around depth but isn’t really a cornerback that can play alone on the outside. Drew Coleman is a true nickel corner and plays the position well but doesn’t do well outside when called upon. It appears that the Jags will only have one solid backup to step in if Cox goes down and that’s either Aaron Ross or Rashean Mathis depending on who wins the starting spot on the other side.
But what if Cox and whoever is opposite him both go down?
That’s where the draft comes in.
Look for the Jags to grab a good middle round corner to play ball for the Jags in the future. My money is on a small school prospect.
And what about safety? Dawan Landry proved in 2011 that he can play the game well enough to continue his starting spot. As did Dwight Lowery.
But who’s behind them? Chris Prosinski, the fourth round pick out of Wyoming last year is a solid player (from what we hear) and could step up if need be. But beyond him there isn’t much. In a weak safety class I doubt that the Jags go after any of the two (one?) starting caliber safeties in the first or second round. They’ll probably bring in a spot guy for the season.
Fortunately, Landry and Lowery are durable players who have proven they can play for the season. I expect them to be constants at the back end of the defense and have high hopes for their superior play as they learn the defense even better this year with a true offseason.
Overall, the Jags are looking solid in the secondary and have set themselves up to grab the best available player throughout the draft without having to worry too much about filling a starting spot or providing immediately needed depth. I don’t want Youboty coming back into the starting lineup, but I think the Jags will be just fine grabbing a player in the draft to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
- Luke N. Sims