The Depth of the Jaguars’ D
By Luke Sims
Call it excitement from the looming NFL opener, or just call it pure hope, despite my skepticism entering (and throughout) the offseason, I’m starting to feel very very confident in the team that GM Gene and Jack Del Rio are building. This year Gene Smith has focused on bringing in top end defensive talent both through the draft (as he wants to build) and through free agency. And, thankfully, it’s looking good.
Even when trimming players, such as Don Carey and Terrence Wheatley, Gene Smith know that, like trimming a tree, he is creating a better roster. And with the transplant of Dwight Lowery (Jets), the defense is becoming formidably deep.
With the IR placement of D’Anthony Smith, things still aren’t truly settled at Defensive Tackle, but Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton have both proven their worth in the past and in other DTs like Leger Douzable and Nate Collins, the Jaguars have commodities in whom they know what type of performance they can expect. Expect TnT to do wonders all year long, and hopefully the rotation of Mosley, Collins, and Douzable will provide a steady presence in the middle of the D-Line. While I can’t place the blame of no sacks through the first three preseason games entirely on the defensive tackles, the players really need to collapse the pocket from the inside much faster and more efficiently to allow more plays to be made.
The Defensive End position, much like the others, has become stronger with trimming (Goodbye Derrick Harvey and Larry Hart) and, with the development of Jeremy Mincey and Austen Lane, is looking strong. GM Gene rightly brought in Matt Roth this summer to provide insurance should Aaron Kampman (or whoever starts opposite) happen to go down again. Speaking of Aaron Kampman, have you heard he’s healthy again? The coaches are also going to move to a more frequently rotating system with the defensive ends. This will keep our starters fresher and help to develop our men with greater potential, such as Lane or our favorite late bloomer, Mincey. Like the defensive tackles, the defensive ends need to get more sacks. While the pocket hasn’t collapsed consistently for the Jags D, the defensive ends need to capitalize on the opportunities when they do occur. This falls on the defensive ends. Mincey and Kampman getting into a groove early in the season will be invaluable.
The cornerback situation vastly improved with the draft this summer. Rod Issac provides potential that is tough to ignore, and his ability to be cross trained at safety and cornerback is a necessity in a previously weak secondary for the Jags. When free agency rolled around, GM Gene gave us Drew Coleman who, as soon as he gets the playbook down, will provide a very steady presence at the nickel back position. Derek Cox has to have a good year straight off the bat, especially with the IR placement of David Jones who filled in during his slump at the start of last season. Rashean Mathis says he’s feeling fitter than ever and I’m inclined to believe it. If we get youthful Rashean type play with his veteran experience and knowledge, the defensive backfield will have become much, much stronger.
The linebackers are my number one concern entering the season. The additions of Paul Posluszny and Clint Session are great, for their talent. The injury concerns will both linebackers are legitimately concerning. Daryl Smith, the other linebacker, provides a solid presence on the outside, but if Posluszny or Session go down the only really solid backup we have is Russell Allen (even though Kyle Bosworth has potential, but not the game experience). I would much prefer having Kirk Morrison’s solid body around, but we go with what we’ve got. If Posluszny and Session make it through the year without an injury that keeps them out a week or more, I will be shocked, but very pleased. I love the skills they bring to the table, but there is cause for concern here that must be recognized. Perhaps Lance Briggs (disgruntled with the bears) could come in for the Jags? Other than an entire paragraph of sounding depressed, I’m stoked for the linebacking corps!
The safety position(s) coming into the summer were/was the primary concern for the Jaguars. By recognizing the potential of Courtney Greene from last year and the brilliant removal of time and practice wasters like Don Carey (who I still kind of like) along with draft addition Chris Prosinski and free agent pickups Dawan Landry and Dwight Lowery, Gene Smith has turned the feable back end of the defense into a mine of talent. The abilities of each player have been proven (except Prosinski who just has potential that seems to flow through every pore of his body) and the group seems hungry for success. Of the bunch, I think Lowery will emerge as the most solid performer, but that is yet to be determined and NFL playbooks tend to be long reads.
Despite my concerns at linebacker, the defense is looking surprisingly deep through just one successful offseason of moves. If the Jags can execute with the talent they have stacked at the positions, then revamping some aspects of the offense (O-Line!) next year should flow pretty smoothly.
– Luke N. Sims