Among the positions that need upgrading most on the Jaguars defense is clearly the linebacker spot. The underacheiving Jaguars LB corps of last year doesn't look like it's any position to get better in 2011 with no linebackers added in the draft last month. Additionally, two of the three starters are scheduled to hit free agency in the summer with only Daryl Smith with years remaining on his contract.
It would be shocking if the Jaguars entered the 2011 season without having added at least one starting quality linebacker to their defense. Among the potential candidates to fill that void is the soon-to-be 28 year old (his birthday is in three days) Barrett Ruud.
The debate will rage on through the summer as Jaguars fans argue whether incumbent David Garrard or rookie first round draft pick Blaine Gabbert should start in the fall. The majority of fans would probably say that Garrard is the favorite for the job right now and that Gabbert can spend a season or two learning from the veteran and adjusting to the NFL level. Gene Smith, Jack Del Rio and other Jaguars personnel have even said as much.
It seems unlikely, though, that the Jaguars would keep Garrard and the $8 million he's due in 2011 just to sit on the bench if Gabbert were able to win the spot through training camp and preseason. When Gabbert wins the starting spot, Garrard is likely going to be wearing a different uniform shortly thereafter.
Why, then, wait for the inevitable and cut Garrard without receiving compensation through a trade? While certainly a risky move that would be the franchise in the hands of a rookie from the spread offense of Missouri, perhaps a certain amount of value would make the risk worthwhile.
The title seems like a no brainer, of course they develop. Defensive end is a position that requires adjustment to the size and speed of NFL offensive tackles and thus, sack numbers usually don't rise until a player's 2nd, 3rd or sometimes even 4th year in the league.
When the Jaguars drafted Central Arkansas DE Larry Hart and Murray State DE Austen Lane in the 5th round of the 2010 draft, most believed they were good prospects to develop and possibly turn into sack masters of the future. One season later it seems as if those hopes have dwindled to some degree and many Jaguars fans were disappointed to see the team not add a premium pass rusher in the 2011 draft.
But looking at the development of prior 5th round and late round defensive ends, who's to say they wont break out in the near future? Or even as soon as the 2011 season?
Thanks to Rich Sports Management, the representatives of the newest member of the Jaguars Rod Issac, I was able to conduct a short interview with the 5th round cornerback out of Middle Tennessee State:
What was your draft experience like?
Well on draft day, I don’t know if you know or not, but I was by myself, none of my family was with me. My grandma had passed the week before so my whole family was on the road trying to get back into Miami.
I was watching by myself and on day three of the draft during rounds 4, 5, 6 and 7, I was kind of excited, kind of nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. I had heard a couple teams saying that 4th round they were going to try to come draft me, so I was excited and eager for that.
When the 4th round went around, all the teams that said they were going to draft me didn’t draft me. So then when the 5th round came and the Kansas City Chiefs were on the clock, I just knew they were going to pick me with that selection, but they didn’t. They selected another cornerback.
Then I saw the Atlanta Falcons traded up into the 5th round, so I thought maybe they were going to select me with that selection, but they didn’t. Then when the Jacksonville Jaguars were on the clock I got a phone call and they selected me.
It was kind of feeling like this is for real. I was just so excited to finally come off the board, finally the wait was over. I knew where I was going to be going. To get my shot in mini camp, to go in and compete for a job. It was something that was so exciting to me. I was so nervous, but then I was so excited when they drafted me.
If nothing else, the Jaguars safety group is one that can boast youth. If the Jaguars lose Sean Considine to free agency, which seems like a near certainty at this point in time, the oldest safety on the team would be the 26-year-old Tyron Brackenridge.
Unfortunately there hasn’t been a whole lot more to boast about. Courtney Greene looks like an ascending player for the Jaguars, but Don Carey was forced into the starting lineup and was clearly ill-prepared. Chris Prosinski, a 4th round draft pick by the Jaguars, could be a good player for the Jaguars in the future and possibly even a starter, but relying on him to make an impact at the position right away would probably be unwise.
Perhaps instead, the Jaguars should look to free agency to bring in a talented safety that can fill a starting role for the team for a few seasons. While the names Eric Weddle and Michael Huff have been tossed around, the name Quentin Mikell has been passed over.
This is the first installment in a series I will do highlighting the top potential free agents that Gene Smith and the Jaguars could target and sign whenever free agency is opened.
The all-time franchise record for sacks in a single season for the Jaguars was set in 1999 by Tony Brackens when he tallied 12 sacks over the course of a 14-2 season. Last year the leader in sacks for the Jaguars was Jeremy Mincey who finished the season with five sacks, starting in eight games.
Carolina's fourth year defensive end Charles Johnson quietly racked up 11.5 sacks for his team that only won two games. If there was one area of the Panthers that looked bright, it was their pass defense that allowed the sixth fewest amount of touchdown passes in the NFL. Johnson was certainly a large factor in that for the Panthers.
A 3rd round selection (83rd overall) in the 2007 draft, Johnson was thought to be slightly undersized for a 4-3 defensive end and probably a better fit as an outside linebacker in a 3-4. He was also believed to be an "inexperienced" player by most accounts, but one with plenty of upside and potential for success due to his supreme athletic ability.