In base defensive packages, four positions constitute the defensive secondary. Two cornerbacks, one strong safety, and one free safety. Heading into the 2013 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars only had the free safety position truly settled with Dwight Lowery returning to the familiar role. The other returning starter, cornerback Mike Harris, seems to be the odd man out among a new defensive scheme that requires stronger, more physically imposing cornerbacks to play aggressively. It’s a tough change for the comparatively undersized Harris and I hate to see him shut out because he is a hard worker, but in all honest he outplayed players last year who should no longer be starting in this league.
Last season the Jaguars’ defense dropped from the eighth best passing defense in 2011 to 22nd. The play of Aaron Ross was absolutely horrendous, Rashean Mathis was woefully behind his younger counterparts, and it took Harris weeks and weeks to catch up and play the game at an effective level. Dawan Landry, the starting strong safety the previous two seasons, was cut this offseason for a lack of range.
But the 22nd ranked defense this past season is now being reorganized by a man that led the Seattle Seahawks‘ defense to become sixth in the league against the pass in 2012.
The reconstruction of the Jaguar secondary begins and ends with head coach Gus Bradley. He told general manager Dave Caldwell the types of players he wanted and Caldwell went out and got them. Johnathan Cyprien (SS) and Dwayne Gratz (CB) figure to start immediately. Demetrius McCray (CB) and Jeremy Harris (CB) figure to compete for time on the field. Safety Josh Evans is going to be involved in some way, he’s just too talented to ignore. Now, with the addition of Marcus Trufant, the Jaguars have an experienced player to add a veteran presence to an extremely young unit.
The Jaguars aren’t just throwing players at the secondary. Fivedraft picks, a handful of undrafted free agents, and a veteran addition make this secondary so much more than it was heading into the draft and the mid offseason period. But it isn’t just about warm bodies. The players selected are quality. They bring in a new era of potential and success that the Jaguars haven’t seen from a secondary unit since the days of Donovin Darius and Rashean Mathis dominating. No longer with the secondary be a liability. It is becoming a strength.
- Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims