Derrick Harvey: Primed For a Breakout Year

In 2008 the Jaguars sent away their first round selection along with two third rounders and a fourth rounder to the Ravens to move up 18 spots and select Florida DE Derrick Harvey. The Jaguars later traded away their second and fifth round picks to move up in the second round to select Auburn DE Quentin Groves. In one day the Jaguars traded away the entire middle of their draft to select two players in the hope that they would become sack machines for the Jaguars en route to a Super Bowl.

It would be an understatement to say things haven't gone quite as planned. After two seasons the Jacksonville pass rush has further deteriorated causing Gene Smith to trade away Groves, leaving Harvey as the only remaining player from the 2008 draft class. In his two seasons Harvey hasn't been very impressive either, accumulating only 5.5 sacks in 32 games and 25 starts. Although he has developed into a very strong run defender at the DE spot, the "bust" talks will continue until he starts to bring the quarterback down. Is Harvey in the perfect situation to silence the critics in 2010?

Adjustment:

Adjusting to the speed of the NFL is something that defensive ends rarely do well in their rookie years. While there are players that make the adjustment well, in most cases a player will go through a year or two of subpar production before establishing themselves as a sack threat in the NFL. Here's a look at some of the NFL's greatest sack artists who made up for their lack of production in their first seasons with breakout seasons and successful careers:

DE Breakout Years
Player
1st Year 2nd Year Career 
John Randle 1.0 9.5 137.5
Richard Dent 3.0 17.5 137.5
Mario Williams 4.5 14.0 39.5
John Abraham 4.5 13.0 89.5
Player
1st 2 Years 3rd Year Career 
Chris Doleman 3.5 11.0 150.5
Rickey Jackson 4.5 12.0 128.0
Sean Jones 9.5 15.5 113.0
Patrick Kerney 5.0 12.0 82.5
Player
1st 3 Years 4th Year Career 
Kevin Greene 13.5 16.5 160.0
Leonard Little 5.5 14.5 87.5

 

After 2 seasons Derrick Harvey has 5.5 sacks. There's no guarantees that there will be a breakout season; however, it is worth noting that many of the greatest sack artists required a period to adjust before finally finding success.

Teammates:

In 2009, Harvey started all 16 games at defensive end while the opposite DE spot saw a rotation of players. Reggie Hayward was set to be the full-time starter, but suffered a season ending injury in the season opener against the Colts. From that point on the Jaguars rotated through a group of players, none of which were successful. Quentin Groves, Bryan Smith and Julius Williams all saw starts while James Wyche, Greg Peterson, Jeremy Navarre and Chris Harrington all saw snaps at DE. None of whom found success at much of anything. 

As a consequence, Harvey saw double teams and blocking schemes focused on stopping him. In the rare event that he managed to break through en route to the quarterback it was most likely that: A) the ball was no longer in the quarterbacks hands, or B) the quarterback was able to evade the pressure without the threat of another player being in position to make the sack.

Gene Smith set out to solve that problem this offseason with the addition of Aaron Kampman in free agency, the resigning of Reggie Hayward and by drafting DEs Austen Lane and Larry Hart. Also added in the hopes of providing a pass rush from the inside out was first round draft pick, Tyson Alualu, and third round draft pick, D'Anthony Smith. Barring horrible results from all 6 additions, opponents of the Jaguars will see a pass rush from the defensive line. The likelihood that Derrick Harvey will be receiving the double teams he has in the past is significantly slimmer.

With that will hopefully come more opportunities to get after the quarterback. Also keep in mind that because Harvey played a season in which opposing teams focused their blocking schemes to stop him, he's probably a better player as a consequence. Similar to that of a baseball player warming up with weights on his bat, Harvey will hopefully be playing with the same intensity as though there are two players to beat.

Motivation:

Ok I'll be honest, this one's a little harder to measure, but I have to figure there has to be the desire in Harvey to prove the naysayers wrong. Don't put too much stock in things heard this early in the offseason, but the early word out of mini-camp is that Harvey is playing like his "hair is on fire." Also, according to most of those in attendance at the mini-camp, namely our head writer Alfie Crow, Harvey was beating Eben Britton like a drum in drills. 

It appears that the perfect storm of circumstances have been laid down in front of Derrick Harvey. There's no telling whether or not Harvey will become a feared sack artist or if he's simply a bust, but if he is to have a breakout year, this is the year where everything seems to be just right.

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