What’s Next – Still taking the Leap of Faith
By Luke Sims
My dear gents and ladies, last week in “What’s Next” we took a peek at whether we should be taking a leap of faith with the Jaguars in 2011. There was a little speculation, a little bit of cold hard fact, but, it was mostly a projection conjured up from what the statistics and coaches can tell us at this point in the offseason (namely, four months into a lockout). So, now, let’s glimpse into the future a few more times with some other positions.
It’s always nice to be optimistic, and it’s nice to rely on what the GM and coach are telling us, but can we really trust what their actions and comments are telling us? Below we look at free safeties and linebackers with statistics and speculation. Let’s dive in.
Free Safety – We’re told by the Jags front office that the strong safety spot should be solid. And, based on Courtney Greene’s end of year play, we’re inclined to agree. But what about free safety? Our own Andrew Hofheimer speculated about potential free agent pickups here and here. But the more I read, the more I think that the players will be too expensive or too tied to their respective franchises. So, if worst comes to worst, let’s analyze.
- Chris Prosinski: Much like other draft picks that are taken in mid rounds and expected to be contributors, we are left wondering what his role will be and how he will perform. Will he fill in on certain downs? Is he competing to start? Is he fast enough to perform at all? Will he shy away from tackles? These questions among others are running through our heads. While the coaching staff is confident that Prosinski will add depth and may challenge whoever is at free safety, how can we be sure he’ll be able to translate his college game to the NFL? I don’t care how good you were in college, if you’re not ready, you’re not ready.
- Don Carey: I have always liked Don Carey. Gene Smith brought him in for his corner abilities which were….lacking and then shifted him over to safety during the season. To give you an idea of how horrendous our pass defense remained (some may argue became) we allowed 28 passing touchdowns. This puts tied with the Buffalo Bills and in between the Cleveland Browns and the Oakland Raiders. Not exactly the most successful of company. Here are some numbers in 10 games started: 51 tackles, 1 pick, 1 pass defenced. It makes you wonder, with Don Carey back there next year, can we expect the same thing?
- Sean Considine: Sean is another guy that I like. He’s a solid, dependable backup. This is because his ceiling is just too low. He’s solid at what he does, the coaches know what to expect with him, I’m fine with that. But he just is not a starting caliber free safety. He started the second most games at free safety last year, here are some numbers for him in 5 games started: 46 tackles, 1 pick, 1 fumble (forced and recovered), 1 sack, 3 passes defensed. Sean’s numbers would suggest he should be safe as a backup (especially considering he can play both strong and free safety and solid special teams), but is he starting caliber? Hardly.
It can be assumed that without a free safety signing, the Jaguars’ passing defense will probably remain what it is, in the bottom percentile of the league, right next to other non-playoff teams. If we want to stay down there, I say we go with Considine, he’s far more productive than Carey (Who was given more chances to show something special) Gene, do us a favor, sign someone good, we don’t want to have to choose between Considine and Carey or an unproven 4th rounder.
Linebacker (the missing one) – There are three linebacker slots for the Jaguars. Right now we have Daryl Smith and…..? Nobody. Kirk Morrison will probably be resigned, and he rightly deserves some love. But what about that other spot. Who can play outside linebacker for the Jags? Looking at our current roster, I’d say nobody. But let’s take a look anyway.
- Justin Durant: This guy has been around for 4 years now. Career numbers: 50/64 games played, 268 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 fumble forced. To give you an idea of his numbers in comparison to our other linebackers, Morrison racked up 234 tackles his first two seasons, Daryl Smith recorded 3.5 sacks last year. Oh, and Morrison has never missed a game in his life (six seasons). The problem for Justin Durant isn’t that he can’t play, he can (and decently), but he has missed too many games (Almost a full season). This past year alone he missed six games. While it’s sad to see somebody go who can put up decent numbers in only a few games, he hasn’t been a consistent enough addition to the defense to warrant another year. And the coaches have noticed.
- The Others: Russel Allen, Slade Norris, Aaron Morgan, Kyle Bosworth, Jacob Cutrera. Of these guys, only one has any real experience, Russel Allen (35 tackles last season, 36 in 2009), and he may be the only one with the skill set to play consistent outside linebacker at either a backup or starting role.
That’s as thin as it is. Literally. Fortunately, the dose of reality here has been recognized by the coaches. We know we have nobody to fill the third linebacker spot. Is it worth it to fill cap space and an 11th defensive spot with an oft-injured average performer? Or is it better to fill the spot every game with a player that may never realize potential/break through his ceiling? We better start hoping Rod Issac plays really good nickel, because right now it looks like it’d be better to have a third cornerback around than a third linebacker. It’s about time to start praying. While I want a safety as much as the next guy, if we don’t sign a linebacker we will be undermanned, underperforming, and in store for an underwhelming season.
These two positions are where the heart of the problem lies. Without fixing the free safety position and filling that linebacker spot, can we hope to compete. Can we really jump off this cliff, taking a leap of faith with the team, knowing that we may just crash? Or should we trust Gene Smith to make a big time signing and pull us out of the muck? Should we trust the play calling of Mel Tucker? I say it’s worth a shot. If we get to see Rod Issac do this more than Don Carey do this, or our third linebacker be this, I’ll be excited. Do these seem like insurmountable problems? Maybe. But no matter what, it looks like we’re going to get some Jags football and I’m for sure not going to miss it.
– Luke N. Sims