Battles On The Defense: Jags Desire Physical Play
While others may rather watch reruns of Law and Order or House or whatever people do while football season is on vacation until week one of the regular season, the ones who do take interest in the preseason and seeing prime, good ol’ fashioned ‘earn your place’ competition have something to see as the training camps approach an end.
Each preseason creates the skepticism of the rookies. Who’s overrated? Who're the underdogs? Which players are the fans pulling for?
The Jaguars’ defense last year could be described as the opponents’ best offense. Instead of stopping people, scores and statistics tend to extort the overall effort of performances, seemingly making any mediocre offense seem dominant and a force to be reckoned with. Quick flashbacks of the Titans scoring nearly 40 on them week 17 and the Lions doing their best David Copperfield impression week 9 by making a running game reappear that had been absent the bulk of 2012 serves as evidence.
With preseason only being four games long and the starters not participating the bulk of the time, it is easy to say there is no proof of a changed team within that time span. Needless to say, the linebacking core of starters are a lock with Paul Posluszny easily looking like the best player on that side of the ball and Geno Hayes looking like a resurrected veteran. Russell Allen is a player to watch after sustaining an ankle injury in the first game against the Dolphins, but he's coming off a career high 100 plus tackle season the previous year.
The setback seems rather minor because the team is optimistic he will be ready come the first regular season game, but creates a battle between LaRoy Reynolds and Brandon Marshall if that is not the case.
“That guy 56, he can do something; he can play and be something for us. It was good spectating our young guys out there,” said Jeremy Mincey for the team website, a six-year veteran, referring to Reynolds when asked about young players who stood out.
Speaking of Mincey, the starting defensive end over the past two years and former team sack leader seems to be adapting to more of a situational role with being listed second on the left side depth chart. Tyson Alualu and Jason Babin are being depended on to bring the outside rush.
Coach Gus Bradley moved Alualu back to the end position, where he feels he is more natural playing at because of his college experience there and how his bull rush abilities can be utilized in this system.
Sen’Derrick Marks is becoming the popular guy in town as fans found out who he was very quickly when he recorded the team’s first sacks in 2013. Marks and Roy Miller are at the inside tackle spots for now as Miller has seen limited preseason action due to injury.
The newly assembled front seven shown life of a pass rush in spurts thus far but of course in the eyes of critics and a fan base who has been let down consistently over a decade, doesn’t mean much to them until Kansas City comes to town.
Despite it being now a pass heavy league, this front seven has also yet to show that they can stop the run. The Jets Chris Ivory gashed them up the middle consecutive times and on one run made rookie safety Jonathan Cyprien look just like what he is, a rookie not yet completely ready and who noticeably took a bad angle on national television.
Cyprien, to his credit, made his debut that night in NFL action. He did receive two unnecessary penalties, but Bradley and the organization liked what they saw still. In the game they saw a hungry player with hustle and athletic ability. Something Jacksonville has not seen in some time at the position.
He will start alongside Dwight Lowery at the other safety. Lowery will be looked upon for leadership with Alan Ball for a young defensive backfield. Dwayne Gratz, another rookie, will start at the other corner.
It's interesting to speculate and observe how the new guys will compete. If you were to use the heat from Mark Sanchez’s performance for your morning breakfast it would be black toast. The incompetent quarterback was able to burn the Jags pass defense and Braylon Edwards displayed like the former 3rd overall pick that he is.
On the bright side, the sunshine state team’s veteran conerbacks Kevin Rutland and Marcus Trufant did not look too bad in their nickel and dime scenarios and Trufant recorded an interception in the redzone thanks to a poor decision by Sanchez.
Bradley is pleased for the most part knowing where the Jags are coming from and now being able to see some light at the end of the tunnel progressing from the bottoms of the league.
“We’re trying to figure out what our personality is going to be once we get into the regular season, this was a good step.”