Becoming An Elite Defense: The Perimeter
Every season there are new faces on every team in the NFL. Some enter through the draft, other by free agency, trade or even by working out to make it through the bubble onto the 53 man roster. The Jaguars secondary is one such position that has been completely gutted in recent years to keep up with the leagues transition to a passing league.
The lone Jaguar seen through most of this change has been Rashean Mathis. For seasons past he has been the brightest star on the team, especially early in his career which brought on the name, “Rashean the Machine”. Two seasons ago he was even asking for an extension but was denied, which in hind sight was a good move for the Jags considering last seasons injury.
Their has however been a hit in his production the past few seasons, which can be explained through a number of reasons. Not being challenged like players Nnamdi Asomugha, who had his contract voided last year for production numbers, injuries taking him out of the game like last years painful ACL tear, as well as age, which has been slowly taking over.
Before this season starts, Mathis is still considered the best defensive back going into the season, with Derek Cox and Aaron Ross knocking at the door for the starting position. Cox will most likely start at right corner opposite Mathis at left. Depth now includes William Middleton who was recently resigned as well as drafted rookie Mike Harris and newly signed Ross.
Gone are names like Deon Grant, Donovin Darius, Brian Williams and Reggie Nelson, and a number or defensive backs who never worked out. Darius was known for hitting hard, even leaving current leading rusher then rookie Maurice Jones-Drew feeling completely numb on one side of his body, from a hit during practice. To define how hard he hit this is a symptom that correlates with a stroke. Brian Williams and Reggie Nelson were also good as Jaguars but Williams decided to leave with Defensive coordinator Mike Smith who became Atlanta Falcons head coach; and Nelson not living up to first round expectations, was traded for corner David Jones to provide depth.
The Jaguars now have former Ravens Safety Dawan Landry and converted corner now Free Safety Dwight Lowery. Landry played in a 1-2 system with Ed Reed in Baltimore which essentially means both players would decide who would play free or strong depending on the down. On the Jaguars however, he remained strong at strong being one of only a few defensive backs to remain healthy and anchor the defense the entire year. Also coming out a strong defense was Lowery off of the Jets, who has been unable to stay healthy but was productive throughout the season. Lowery was converted and played well landing him a new four year deal. Depth includes last years draftees Rod Isaac and Chris Prosinski who are now simply on the team to provide depth as the above mentioned are clear cut starters.
If the Jaguars hope to advance their game in the secondary, health is the first issue to deal with as many Jaguars dropped due to injuries. While the playoffs were out of reach, DB’s Kevin Rutland, Ashton Youboty and Morgan Trent made starts. While signing free agents during the season have no business starting, The Jaguars still have to play on Sunday.
The Jaguars will also have to deal with Mathis’s impending departure from the squad as the 31 year old’s best years are most likely behind him. Newly signed Ross has yet to prove his worth after allowing 65.9 completion percentage and six touchdowns with the Giants according to Walterfootball.com, but should improve with a growing Jaguars defense and Middleton pushing for the nickel spot. If newly signed Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Tom Myslinski can keep the players healthier than former coach Luke Richesson, the Jaguars should pose a formable perimeter in 2012.
– Antonio Furgiuele