Mkristo Bruce: Welcome to the Jacksonville Jaguars
If you went back in time to just before training camp, you'll remember that the Jaguars signed a little known defensive end from the Washington State COUGARS (h/t Mr. Marlow). Mkristo Bruce, or MK as Jack Del Rio calls him, emerged during the Jaguars preseason game on Saturday where he surprised everyone with 2.5 sacks and made the positional battle for the 5th defensive end spot just a little more interesting. Since only the most die hard of Pac-Ten football fans and Badger Alumni would have any clue as to what Bruce has been up two since signing with the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted free agent after the 2007 draft.
Mkristo's NFL career has found himself on a few practice squads but little else. Miami and Oakland tried him out, but it didn't pan out. When the Jaguars signed him, the team made it clear that he was picked up as a "backup plan" in case Derrick Harvey held out. As fate would have it, Harvey is holding out (despite my declaration a month ago that it was "improbable" that he would do so), and MK gets a chance to shine.
Let's take a quick look at who he is, where he comes from, and what sort of chances he has to make the roster.
Video Killed the Scouting Report:
Productive collegiate defensive end who has improved throughout his career. Has rare size for the position. Better pass rusher than he is a natural football player. Gets an advantage on the offensive tackle and can capitalize with good short-area quickness and strength in his tackling.
Lacks quickness off the snap and acceleration around the offensive tackle. Isn't explosive and makes too many plays down the field. Despite size, Bruce isn't a particularly physical defender and can be knocked off the line of scrimmage.
Jack Del Rio:
“First of all I call him MK because it’s easier to pronounce. He had 14 sacks one year at Washington State. He’s got some natural rush ability. He did some good things. We really signed him in case (Derrick) Harvey held out, we were going to give him a chance and we told him when we signed him that ‘look, if Harvey reports tomorrow you’re going to be gone after one day, but we’d like to get a look at you.’ And he was eager to get into camp and he’s done a nice job for himself. He’s come in here and worked hard. He’s got some decent size and has a frame that he can grow a little bit and he has done a nice job representing himself taking advantage of the opportunity and given himself a shot to make a favorable impression. So, we’ll see. A couple weeks into it, he’s done a nice job working at it.”
Will he make the Roster?
Mkristo took advantage of an opening during the Atlanta game to get noticed and make some noise in the ever important roster battle at the bottom of the defensive end depth chart. His 2.5 sacks are impressive, but he'll have to show next week that he can keep it up. The eventual arrivial of Harvey in camp will bring his rising star back to the back burner, of course, but for right now he's a player to watch.
There's something to be said about a player who can recognize when the stakes are high, coming out and making noise against second and third team offensive linemen is good, but securing a roster spot is by no means a sure thing. Remember, these are the Jaguars who just signed Bo Schobel to replace James Wyche, leaving a mess of guys competing for one spot.
The lesson I've learned through the last week is to never get excited about players who emerge, cause they're all getting injured a week later. So keep an eye out, but remember, it's just the preseason.