The Jaguars' season now is squarely in our rear view mirror, and we can take an honest look at what we're dealing with. Let me start by drawing a contrast between Chris and myself, I don't see us rebuilding, I see us reloading. The overall strength of our roster is good, and our young players are developing quite nicely. I'll focus on the defense, and touch on the glaring need for a LT now, and the offense will be next.
We need a strong LT to keep Garrard upright; that has got to be priority number one. This is the hardest position to fill besides QB, but our spot as the number 8 overall pick puts us in prime position to draft one of the few OT who can come in and start from the beginning, so we should be able to solve that issue. Another option is to tie up a LT in free agency as a stop-gap while the LT we draft learns. That would also free us up to trade away the number eight pick and grab a linemen farther back who may need some polish before they're ready to shut down DE's.
We need a STRONG Safety. The Brian Williams experiment is over, and he's no Bob Sanders (despite what Vic says). Gerald Sensabaugh will likely leave in free agency and if that happens, then SS jumps up the board as a major need for the team. Reggie Nelson is a speed and coverage guy, not a run stuffer. Brian Williams is more of a pass defender then a run stuffer too, meaning we need another Sammy Knight (only younger and faster... and capable of covering TE's).
After thinking about it, I don't think we have to draft another CB. Next year we'll have Mathis, Williams, Florence, and Scott Starks. Most of these players are proto-typical cover two corner-backs (minus Scott Starks... he has the speed to play man-to-man against most), and I expect we'll see a major improvement when the team returns to this style of defense. Our two DE's should help bring pressure next year and that will help the CB's immensely.
Our Defensive line really only needs an interior run-stuffer, a position best filled through the draft. I wouldn't be surprised to see Big John traded in a fashion similar to Stroud. He has a very high cap number and hasn't produced up to his contract in the last 2 years. Some of you may remember that he missed countless practices last season due to "personal problems", and it was expected that he would return to form this season. However, that hasn't been the case and he has struggled at times. He has played well over the last month though (The Jags shut down their opponents' running game the last 4 contests of the year), which may increase his trade value, or prompt the team to give him another season. On the whole, his performance has been unsatisfactory for the last two years.
ROB (don't call me Seth) Meier hasn't played as well as he did last year prior to penning an extension. Derek Landri has played great, but he still isn't strong enough to be a force in the run-game. He's got a great ability to pressure to QB from the DT spot though, something that many interior linemen can't do. He was clearly an excellent 5th round pick, and you have to love anyone that comes out of Notre Dame.
Don't forget about our mammoth of a "jar on the shelf" Theo Horracks. He spent the season on IR, but he is a huge run-stopping DT we signed as a UDFA and holds a lot of promise. Our interior DT's must be our focus! If Terrence Cody comes out (which I'm betting he will) then I would have no problem trading back a few spots to try and draft him. Stop the run and run the ball... that's how you win.
Reggie Hayward has been one of the team's top performers at DE and has built a solid rapport with rookie DE Derrick Harvey. Hayward will undoubtedly be back both for his tutelage of Harvey, and his ability to play run or pass. Paul Spicer hasn't played as well this season either, but his versatility (he can play DE or DT) will get him another year.
Harvey and Groves are developing quite well, and Derrick Harvey has actually been performing much better than most have given him credit for. As of Dec.12 he was only one behind Dwight Freeney and tied with Mario Williams in QB pressures. This was prior to his last three games, including the game against Baltimore where he registered 2 sacks.
AFC South QB pressures (with sacks) Dwight Freeney, 25 (9.5)
Mario Williams, 24 (11)
Derrick Harvey, 24 (1.5)
Tony Brown, 21 (3.5)
Paul Spicer, 20 (3.5)
Albert Haynesworth, 19 (8.5)
Kyle Vanden Bosch, 18 (4.5)*
Reggie Hayward, 17 (1.5)
Rob Meier, 17 (2)
Jevon Kearse, 15 (2.5)
Robert Mathis 14, (11.5)
AFC South QB pressures (with sacks)
Dwight Freeney, 25 (9.5)
So, maybe some of you have been a little to hard on the guy, blaming him for the team's failures when he has been improving by leaps and bounds. Need more convincing? Read This.
Reggie Hayward had this to say about Harvey's development.
"He has the ability to be a great player," fellow starting defensive end Reggie Hayward said. "He's learning to let the game come to him instead of trying to force things." "He used to be really quiet in the start, but now he's asking questions," Hayward said. "He's evolving his game. I don't mean physically, because he's already there. I mean he's evolving mentally. The game's starting to slow down for him." Harvey admits that he may have forced his play a bit during the start of the season.
"He has the ability to be a great player," fellow starting defensive end Reggie Hayward said. "He's learning to let the game come to him instead of trying to force things."
"He used to be really quiet in the start, but now he's asking questions," Hayward said. "He's evolving his game. I don't mean physically, because he's already there. I mean he's evolving mentally. The game's starting to slow down for him."
Harvey admits that he may have forced his play a bit during the start of the season.
It is evident that Harvey is beginning to feel at ease with the team. He's got a mentor in Hayward and he is asking lots of questions, which highlights his desire to improve. I have no doubt that he will continue his strong push from the end of this season into next year. If he can continue to create pressure, it opens up all the possibilities of our defense. A new co-ordinator is going to walk into a very talented defense next season and I can't wait.