Jaguars Still Have Work To Do
By Andrew Kates
The Jaguars front office invested heavily in the secondary during both the draft and in free agency this off-season, obviously feeling that a strong defensive backfield will cure most of their defensive woes. Defensive backs Jonathon Cyprien, Josh Evans and Dwayne Gratz should be contributors for years to come, but the Jags have too many other glaring needs to look solely for players in the secondary.
This isn’t to say adding veteran Marcus Trufant and the plethora of rookie signings weren’t good for the team, but if they can’t get to the quarterback or cover the middle of the field, it makes the secondary’s job that much harder. Having a great front seven will turn a lackluster secondary into a highlight reel, but give even an average QB time, and he will tear a defense apart. A perfect example of this is with Rashean Mathis. He benefited from having the top interior lineman in the NFL in John Henderson and Marcus Stroud for years because they disrupted the quarterback.
The Jaguars need a franchise pass rusher, plain and simple. They haven't had a play-making defensive end in years, and a marquee DE is exactly what’s needed in Jacksonville. Jeremy Mincey has shown some flashes, but lacks consistency and now it seems Tyson Alualu will go from his interior position to take a crack at DE, so clearly the coaching staff is aware that changes must be made.
The lack of new play-makers on the defensive line could mean the new coaching staff simply likes the current depth at those positions, believing that Jason Babin and the rest of the defensive line, including second year man Andre Branch, will become impact players. A more likely scenario however, is that they plan to attract a big name player in free agency next season, as well as continuing to build through subsequent drafts. Big name defensive ends Jared Allen, Justin Tuck, Brian Robinson, and Michael Bennett could be on the Jaguars radar for next season, but that does not fix the short-term roster issues.
One of those issues not addressed by GM David Caldwell in the draft was linebacker. The Jags need upgrades at the position to help Paul Posluszny after the loss of Daryl Smith. The Jaguars will have to make due with a group that is large on effort, but lacking in elite ability. Russell Allen and Geno Hayes, along with the rest of the linebackers brought in could turn out to be terrific in Gus Bradley’s scheme, but that is not certain. Bradley was impressed with rookie free agent LaRoy Reynolds, and the progression of some of the other new linebackers as well, but all indications are that the Jags will need to address both DE and LB in the very near future.
For now, it is a waiting game as to how productive they will be on the field.
Despite a losing trend of late, the long term is bright for the Jaguars as the new coaching staff brings an energy and enthusiasm not seen within the organization in years. The mentality Gus Bradley has implemented, making everything an open competition, is a tremendous positive. Still, the coaching staff must address the other needs on this team sooner than later.
The team is on the right track with the new coaching staff, but just as the fans are clamoring for wins, Gus Bradley isn’t satisfied either, stating, “It’s not good enough, it’s not good enough” in response to the first days of practice.
However, he was more pleased with the effort and leadership challenging them in the next days. “They responded well, they came out here, and I kind of wanted to see how they’d respond to it. They came out ready from the start ready to go, both sides and special teams”.
That is a good sign to say the least for Jags fans as we all move forward with this new era.