The Jacksonville Jaguars have had arguably the strongest offseason of any team, not only on the field but also in relation to public perception and culture. Several national analysts have written glowingly about what general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley have done in Jacksonville, and some (ehem Gil Brandt) expect the Jaguars to compete sooner rather than later.
The latest addition to the positive reception this offseason comes from Doug Farrar over at SI.com. He recently posted an article on his “All-Underrated Defense,” and the group includes 3 Jaguars.
First is defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, who played well enough in 2013 to earn a contract extension. Marks was outstanding as an interior pass rusher last year, and he should only get better with more talent around him.
As for Marks, he’s become a tremendously disruptive interior lineman with violent hands and tremendous field speed — you don’t often see 6-1, 300-pound guys run down speed receivers like Indy’s T.Y. Hilton, but the tape doesn’t lie. Marks gets from Point A to Point B in a big hurry.
Second is the obvious and debatable selection of middle linebacker Paul Posluszny. Given the fact he is overpaid by a considerable margin, I wouldn’t really call Poz “underrated”, but Farrar thinks he’s one of the best 4-3 inside linebackers in the game. While he very well may be, the value of the position just isn’t that high.
Yes, Posluszny made his first Pro Bowl in 2013, but the second-round pick of the Bills in 2007 had an absolutely insane 2013 season for the Jaguars, and it seems like nobody’s talking about it. Only San Francisco’s NaVorro Bowman had more run defeats than Posluszny’s 14 among all inside linebackers, he allowed one touchdown and had two interceptions on his 66 targets, and his 122 solo tackles marked a career high. There are times when inside linebackers are simply tackle magnets, and other times when they really earn those stats. Posluszny earned everything he got in 2013.
Finally, Farrar closed out the trio with veteran cornerback Alan Ball. Now this is a selection worth noting because Ball was terrific last year, and nobody really seemed to notice. In a secondary filled with young, inexperienced players, Ball was the veteran leader and managed to adapt to Gus Bradley’s scheme almost immediately.
Ball was taken in the seventh round of the 2007 draft by the Cowboys, who sure could have used him last year. The Jaguars took the former free safety and moved him to right cornerback, where he started all 16 games in 2013. Ball has excellent pattern-reading skills and tackles well, and he’ll be a key cog in Jacksonville’s development.
The Jaguars have a lot of exciting new pieces on defense, but there are several guys returning from last year who should continue to play well and improve given the talented additions.
– Daniel Lago