Jaguars Defense: Eyes Wide Open
The Jacksonville Jaguars spent four of their six 2010 draft picks on defensive players for a reason. The 2009 defense was not the old reliable Jaguar fans had grown accustomed to years ago. Partly, there was no consistent line play. Season after season, it was easy to get spoiled with the dominating presences of John Henderson and Marcus Stroud. I wholeheartedly expect the Jaguars to improve upon last year’s 23.8 points, 352.3 total yards and 116.4 rushing yards allowed per game. Head coach Jack Del Rio understands a need to focus his interests on the defense’s overall improvement. Keep your eyes focused on these five Jaguars.
Tyson Alualu, defensive tackle, 23 – I am sure you were in the boat with everyone else when Roger Goodell announced Jacksonville had chosen this California product. A collective “who?” swept the First Coast. Besides Tim Tebow, many NFL eyes will be on the rookie Alualu. After selecting the 6-foot-3 Alualu, Del Rio spoke about the Hawaiian’s “real good hip torque, the ability to snap and roll his hips and gain leverage on blockers.” Alualu is already known as one of the defensive line’s high-motor guys. Del Rio expects the first-rounder to “get back there [in the pocket] and harass the quarterback and disrupt the running game.” Another note: Will Alualu be the third consecutive Jaguars’ first-round pick to hold out of training camp because of contract negotiations?
Derrick Harvey, defensive end, 23 – Most of the time we tend to never mention the fact that Harvey is 23-years-old. However, as the eighth overall pick in 2008, he has not nearly lived up to the expectations of a top-10 draft choice. Harvey’s 5.5 sacks in two full seasons are nothing to write home to mother. In 16 starts in 2009, he almost tripled his 2008 solo tackle total with 44. But, if Harvey, a two-time All-SEC player at Florida, expects to stay in Jacksonville longer than his rookie contract of five years, then he needs to consistently attack the quarterback. The Jaguars’ best offense in 2010 will be a swarming defense. Especially, with the recent release of defensive end Reggie Hayward, Harvey will be looked upon for much-needed contributions.
Aaron Kampman, defensive end, 30 – Ignoring that Kampman, a two-time Pro Bowl selection in 2006 and 2007, tore the ACL in his left knee last season is impossible. Also, a less-than-stellar nine games in Green Bay’s 3-4 defense in 2009 left Kampman, while being underutilized, with below-average stats. All in all, Kampman can bring a spark at a position the Jaguars would like to see fire. From 2006 to 2008, the 30-year-old recorded 9.5 sacks or more each season. He favors playing right defensive end, but when it comes down to it, Kampman will play where he is needed most. With no nagging knee problems, Kampman can become a big fan favorite.
Terrance Knighton, defensive tackle, 24 – In 2009, he started all 16 games along with fellow rookie Derek Cox. Knighton, deemed “Pot Roast” by his teammates, is the anchor of the defensive line. As a 2009 third-rounder, he racked up 45 tackles – six of which went for a loss. Being named a team captain towards the end of last season, Knighton had gained the respect of everyone on the coaching staff and in the locker room. While in the NFL, he has successfully silenced any talk of weight issues while at Temple. Avoiding a sophomore slump will help the defensive ends get to the quarterback. And, we all know the Jaguars need opposing quarterbacks to go down … and hard.
Kirk Morrison, linebacker, 28 – I have a strong feeling Morrison will be the star of Jacksonville’s 2010 off-season. After the Oakland Raiders drafted Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain in April, Morrison, a 2005 third-round pick, became expendable. In five full seasons with Oakland, Morrison missed only one start in 80 games. Filling the role of middle linebacker, the former San Diego State Aztec will be a tackling machine – bringing in at least 116 total tackles. He will free up others to make plays on the football. On a June day after organized team activities, Morrison put it perfectly in that he feels like “a piece of the puzzle that they [the Jaguars] have been missing.”
Richard Miller is a national broadcaster for Jacksonville Jaguars’ home games on Sporting News Radio. Additionally, starting on July 10, you can hear him on AM 1530 as the host of Inside the Game on Saturdays. The program airs from 11 a.m. until 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. Follow Richard’s daily blog on The Jacksonville Observer and his Twitter page MillerOnSports.