With the lockers all empty at Everbank Field, all Jags fans have to look forward to is next year. The Jaguars, after winning four of their final eight games, are heading in the right direction. Most of it has to do with the inspired coaching of Gus Bradley. A lot more will be attributed to GM David Caldwell. He had an excellent 2013 draft and was pretty spot on with free agents. I can’t wait to see what moves he makes this off-season.
I have written five prior articles concerning the Jags roster. They have been viewed over 2000 times. …I am qualified to give my opinions on the state of the Jags at each position*. Where we are strong and where we need help. Let me know if you agree…
* = If you had a problem, you would have stopped me by now!!!
For our final article, We will look at our Cornerback and Safeties.
Cornerbacks – The Jaguars’ secondary is young, fast, big, & gaining confidence. Unfortunately that confidence came from adversity as the Jags had one of the worse defenses in football. The play of the secondary throughout the year contributed highly to those dismal numbers. As the year progressed though, you saw improvement. The starting corners are a nice combo of experience and youth. The veteran, Alan Ball, gave MUCH more than he took. An affordable free agent, in 15 games he had 47 tackles. Though he had only two interceptions, he had a team high 14 passes defended. He is under contract for next year for a little more than $1 million dollars. I hope he is retained and deserves to be. The other starting corner will be rookie Dwayne Gratz, who impressed in limited play brought on by injury. In ten games, he had 32 tackles with two interceptions and two passes defended. Though his interception number was low, the very low pass defended stats show teams might have been weary of throwing to his side. Hopefully with an offseason and better conditioning, he will be even better next year. Great pick in the 3rd round of the draft. The next rotation (including nickle) are led by Will Blackmon and Mike Harris. Both played much more than anticipated with Gratz’s injuries. Blackmon, who was signed for the last preseason game after 7th round rookie Jeremy Harris was put on the IR. He was brought in for depth and had a career resurrection. He played 15 games, had 41 tackles, 1 interception, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles, and 10 passes defended. He’s also six foot tall, which is the height Gus Bradley has shown to appreciate in the secondary. Two negatives though. 2014 will be Blackmon’s 8th year in the league (well past the Jags youth movement system). Blackmon was also only signed to a one year contract so he is an unrestricted free agent. With the surprising year he had, he may be worth more than the Jags will pay. I hope Will considers giving us a “Hometown Discount”. Mike Harris, playing mostly nickle, took a slight step back in his second year in the league, but was more than serviceable. If called on to take on more of a role next year, I might be a little concerned. The remaining CBs are Jamell Fleming and Demetrius McCray. Both are young, fast, over 5-11, and played well filling in. They should warrant invites next year…Position Grade…C
Safety – These are the positions that show how strong the Jags draft was last year. Both the free & strong safety positions were manned by rookies this year. There were lots of mistakes and growing pains. As the season progressed, the talent level for each player improved. The Jags have to feel REAL good about area of the defense. Second round pick Strong safety Johnathan Cyprien, who was lauded as a great pick the second after they drafted him, did nothing to disappoint. His pass coverage skills tightened up. After making the rookie mistake of looking to blow up the ballcarrier instead of wrapping up, Cyprien slowly but surely became one of the defense’s most confident tackler. His final totals (15 games/103 tackles/1 sack/1 interception/2 forced fumbles/6 passes defended) show the potential for a perennial All-pro. The backup to Johnathan is Chris Prosinski. A third year player, he is respected more for his special teams contributions. If another strong safety is found in the later part of the draft who also displays special teams skills, I don’t expect to see Prosinski back. At free safety, there was sixth round pick Josh Evans, whose 58 tackles and 1 pass defended has already prompted GM Dave Caldwell to project him as the 2014 starter. Another rookie who seemed to learn from his mistakes quickly, I have no reason to not see him improve next year. Josh’s backup is Winston Guy. Another refugee from the Seahawks, Guy played in 14 games accumulating 29 tackles, along with a sack, forced fumble, and pass defended. Hope he will be back next year to see him grow…Position Grade…A-
Summery – Taking all the defensive grades in consideration…(DT…B-), (DE…B+), (ILB…A+) & (OLB…C+) (CB…C), (SFTY…A-), the defense grades out as a B. Improvement could come from a stronger pass rush and better CB play. With better play in those areas, this grade could bump up to an B+, even maybe an A-
I am very excited about next year and can’t wait till March when the free agent period starts. Thank you so much for checking out my writing.
My name is Michael McDonald
I can be reached with Twitter @gumbussy