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miller-postWhen it comes to the NFL Draft, first-round picks are the selections most people seem to remember. After the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Cal defensive tackle Tyson Alualu at No. 10 on Thursday night, the doubts began immediately as to whether general manager Gene Smith can land a second consecutive A-plus draft class.

At least one NFL expert has a clear mind, in my eyes. The NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi, whose opinion I trust considering he is a former NFL general manager, has a wait-and-see approach on the Jaguars’ 2010 draft class. Lombardi, also a sportswriter for National Football Post, says, “Regardless of their draft management issues, the key to the Jags’ draft is for their first four picks to be significant upgrades to the defensive line. No one will question the picks if the Jags prove to be correct on the talent level, and they hit on their one (DT Alualu), their three (DT D’Anthony Smith) and their two fives (DE Larry Hart and DE Austen Lane).” I wish more Jaguar followers could be positive this early in the 2010 season.

During an interview with Matt McGuire, an NFL Draftologist with WalterFootball.com, on Inside the Game Saturday, I asked McGuire to try and sell Jaguar fans on the selection of Alualu at the No. 10 overall pick. McGuire proceeded, “Tyson Alualu has some great qualities. There’s no doubt about it. He’s got great hands. He is athletic. He’s a one-gap penetrator. He has an amazing motor. But, this was one of the biggest reaches we’ve seen in the last 10 years in the top-10. If you’re going to go out and criticize the [Oakland] Raiders for taking Darrius Heyward-Bey at [No.] 7 [in the first round in 2009], this is the equivalent of that at defensive tackle.” I agree with McGuire’s logic, and he even went on to praise Gene Smith for his 2009 draft class. But, McGuire continued by saying that with pass-rushers Derrick Morgan and Jason Pierre-Paul still on the board the Jaguars’ selection of Alualu did not make much sense to him. McGuire had a solid argument against picking Alualu, who had been shown interest by the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans. I feel that is the mentality of most that follow the NFL Draft.

I love the passion coming from the Jaguars’ second fifth-round pick Austen Lane, a defensive end out of Murray State. Asked on Saturday what he can bring to the Jaguars, Lane was very clear – “My first goal is to hurt the quarterback. I don’t want to just sack the quarterback, I want to hurt somebody. That is my mentality, but I also want to make plays in the backfield. I can do that.” After being so straightforward, the 6-foot-5, long-limbed Lane was questioned if he had many personal fouls in college. “I think I only had one. If I’m going to cause pain, then it’s going to be the right way. I’m not going to cheap-shot somebody.” Not only does he want to get to the quarterback, but his answers are nearly perfect for a rookie. With regards to being outspoken and colorful, the Jaguars might have a new Paul Spicer.

The Jaguars have their middle linebacker of the future in former Oakland Raider Kirk Morrison. The 28-year-old Morrison, a five-year veteran, was traded for a fourth-round selection (No. 108 used on wide receiver Jacoby Ford) – as well as getting Morrison, the Jaguars received a fifth-rounder (No. 153, which was used on Lane). After Jacksonville could not land Penn State linebacker Sean Lee – who was taken by the Dallas Cowboys in the second round, the Jaguars made contact with Oakland for Morrison. It is expected that Morrison, the Raiders’ leading tackler the last four years, will take over the middle from Daryl Smith so that Smith can move to an outside linebacker spot. In my opinion, this is the best value acquisition for Jacksonville during the three-day draft period. Morrison is a proven, tackling machine in the prime of his career.

With four out the Jaguars’ six 2010 picks playing defense, it is obvious that Jacksonville is hoping to improve an abysmal 2009 defensive unit that only recorded an NFL-low 14 sacks. In such a deep defense-heavy draft, Jacksonville targeted pure talents with high motors and good character. Bringing in these four defensive rookies, the Jaguars can easily improve upon last season’s 23rd-ranked defense that allowed 352 yards and 23.8 points per game. On Saturday, Jacksonville’s defensive line coach Joe Cullen, discussing if the team is trying to improve the defense, said, “In any good defense or offense, your foundation always starts up front. That is something that Gene, being an ex-defensive lineman, and coach Del Rio through his playing days and the success he has had there. They have always had really good defensive lines. That was one of the key things we wanted to do, build a strong foundation for now and the future.”

Why do so many analysts use football jargon they know the majority of people will not understand?

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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 also hosts Inside the Game every Saturday from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. on WBOB.

Currently, Richard is writing David Lamm’s biography entitled Lamm at Large: The David Lamm Story, which will be available in 2010.

Follow Richard’s daily blog on The Jacksonville Observer.

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