Seven Weeks Until the Draft, Jaguars Need Defense
The 2010 NFL Draft begins a mere seven weeks from now. Some consider this period – from February until April – the down time for our nation’s most popular sport. Others deem it the offspring of Christmas and Thanksgiving. For me, it is what I imagine the sensation of opening gifts and stuffing your face with turkey and mashed potatoes feels like.
I need free agency updates, newly-revised mock drafts and injury news at my fingertips. When April 22 rolls around, I need the knowledge that comes with it all. It becomes my fantasy football off-season. I feel like I’m taking on the role of an NFL scout.
In the last decade of following the NFL Draft closely, I have realized it will continue to gain more momentum and recognition among football fans. The NFL Network and the so-called draft experts can be applauded for the vast coverage. The draft analysis has followed the increased exposure of National Signing Day. Both have blown up in the last few years alone.
The hometown Jacksonville Jaguars need to treat the next couple months as if they are Christmas and Thanksgiving. First of all, the Jaguars will be planning and preparing for Thursday, April 22, like the team’s future depends upon it. On top of that, this year’s draft is loaded with talented defensive players. Nearly each draft favors a certain side of the ball. Well, for 2010, it is defense.
For Jacksonville, there are needs at defensive end, cornerback and safety. Essentially, the Jaguars can improve everywhere on defense – even the linebacker unit can use depth.
Most importantly, a pass-rush specialist is a must-have. The lack of production from high-draft picks Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves has been astonishing. In two NFL seasons, the SEC products have a total of eight sacks. Not to mention, last season’s NFL-low 14 sacks raised a red flag for an organization that has been attempting to lock down a top-flight edge rusher for three years now. With the Jaguars sticking with the 4-3 defensive scheme, hand-in-the-ground pass rushers are being sought. Georgia Tech’s Derrick Morgan, South Florida’s Jason Pierre-Paul and former Florida Gator Carlos Dunlap have been mentioned as potential draftees at No. 10. This cannot be emphasized enough – a true pass rusher is a pressing need for the Jaguars. Plain and simple, acquire a player with the ability to get to the opposing quarterback. Such a plan is feasible once Jacksonville drafts a defensive end with enormous upside.
After the last few NFL seasons and the success of New York Jet Darrelle Revis, shutdown cornerbacks have become incredibly valuable. And, since the Jaguars have a potential one in Derek Cox and an aging – he will be 30 by kickoff of 2010 – Rashean Mathis, Jacksonville should pursue any Revis-like receiver silencers. Cox, a second-year player out of William & Mary, started all 16 games at cornerback. He could be a fixture in Jacksonville for years to come. There is no question Cox, a 2009 third-round selection, has solidified one cornerback position in the Jaguars’ secondary. However, in my opinion, seven-year starter Mathis is a shell of his former self. In his first four seasons, the one-time Pro Bowler started all 64 games and intercepted 20 passes. In Mathis’ last three seasons, he has been injury-plagued – causing him to miss 12 games – and has logged eight interceptions. After Florida’s Joe Haden had a slower 40-time than expected, he has the chance to drop from his top-five draft status. If Haden is on the board, do not be shocked to see the Jaguars add him to the squad.
Staying in the secondary, safety might be the one position on the Jaguars roster in which no name strikes much fear. The first name that comes to mind is Reggie Nelson. And, when his name is mentioned, you think missed tackles and not as good as advertised. Beyond Nelson, the Jaguars’ safeties are Gerald Alexander, Sean Considine, Courtney Greene and Anthony Smith. They scare opposing pass-catchers as much as a glass of Ovaltine. The three athletes that caught my eye during the 2009 college season were: Tennessee’s Eric Berry, former Texas Longhorn Earl Thomas and USC beast Taylor Mays. I like Berry’s potential the most – primarily because of his work under long-time NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Nevertheless, Berry, Thomas or Mays could fill a need that not only can aid the secondary, but also perk up the defensive line.
I remember saying to myself after the 2009 NFL Draft that the Jacksonville Jaguars assembled the best draft in their short history. Even after an unfortunate 7-9 season, I think that proved to be true. But, much is needed for Jacksonville to reach a consistent playoff-caliber team. The addition of a first-round, hotshot selection is key. Under general manager Gene Smith, such a feat is quite possible. As long as the scouts and coaching staff do their homework, they will know which players will mesh and contribute immediately. Whether they choose a defensive end, cornerback or safety, that player will fit their expected mold. My mouth is watering just thinking about the draft-day excitement.
Richard Miller is a national broadcaster for Jacksonville Jaguars’ home games on Sporting News Radio. Additionally, he can be heard on ABC 1320 WBOB in Jacksonville at 5:45 p.m. on Wednesdays with The Jacksonville Observer Radio Show. Richard contributes to Inside the Game with Robin Valetutto every Saturday from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Currently, Richard is writing David Lamm’s biography entitled Lamm at Large: The David Lamm Story, which will be available in 2010.