This is the final article of my six part breakdown of the Jaguars roster based on performance, statistics and the all important eyeball test.
Today, in the final piece of my roster retrospective, I'll be looking at the Jaguars' secondary, which is really unfortunate. Before this, I was having a good day, but it's really hard to be sunny and smiling after a long hard look at the Jaguars secondary. This was truly the weakest unit on the team. By a lot. The majority of the Jaguars' struggles stem directly from the lack of talent in the secondary. There are a few bright spots, and I'll touch on them, but all in all, looking back on the Jags' secondary play makes me cringe. Anyways, it's time to fight down the gurgling in my stomach, hold my nose, and dive right in.Safety: The Jaguars' safety play was terrible last year. So terrible that it was difficult to tell if the corners were bad or not. A lot of the long plays that were let up in the passing game were the result of safeties not being able to make plays. First off, there were three safeties that were on the roster coming into this season who did not last. The Jaguars shipped off Reggie Nelson and Gerald Alexander and Sean Considine were benched. Considine especially, was on and off the field all season.
Considine started the first three games of the season, and had 24 tackles in those games, largely because he let people get open on him. He is an instictive player, and he made some very clutch plays for the Jaguars, none bigger than the game-saving interception he made against Cleveland in Week 11. The thing is... He's really not that talented. He is too slow, too weak, doesn't form tackle well enough... He's just not very good. That's why Philadelphia allowed him to go into free agency a few years ago, and that's why no one picked him up when we dropped him from the roster after week 3.
Don Carey replaced Considine starting in week 7. Yup, the Don Carey, who the Browns drafted as a cornerback that Gene snagged off of the waived/injured list. He proved ineffective as a corner and was moved to safety. He was getting his first NFL playing time this year, and it looked like it. He has better measurables than Considine, and tackled better than him too, but he was often out of position and late arriving to his spot in the zone. A free safety's job is to cover, to run around and make plays on deep passes. Carey suffered in that regard. He largely played the position because Courtney Greene was better suited to playing in the box than Carey. Hopefully he can be replaced, either through free agency or the draft. It would not be very good if we had to start Carey again next year.
I wrote a little snipped on the "Courtney Greene" effect in the aftermath of the Jaguars/Redskins game. It's worth looking at. I believe that Greene is the one bright spot at the safety position. He is a good hitter and can hold his own in the box. He has enough quicks to cover fairly well, and he was getting only his first real time as a starter this year. I expect him to start next year, and I expect improvement from him.
Corner: I'm not even gonna talk about David Jones, for the obvious reason that the mention of his name now sets off a nervous tick for me. His only role was filling in when some un-named problems popped up between Derek Cox and the Jaguars coaching, and he was absolutely terrible at it. I tend to believe that Cox being held out was a comfort thing and not a personal or performance thing. Either way, up until week 7, the right cornerback position was a disaster for the Jaguars. Once Cox returned, he began to show signs of continuing where he left off last year. He's not a shut-down corner, but he has great measurables and led the team in INTs while only playing a little more than half the season. He's very fast, very shifty, and he has the ball skills to go up and make a play on the ball. He needs a little work on the mental side of the game, but I'm absolutely looking forward to seeing him get a full season of playing time. He's gonna be good when he gets on the field again next year.
Rashean Mathis: What can I say? I think he's done. People made all kinds of excuses for him during the season, but all I saw from him was a lack of closing speed, and a player who didn't seem to know what he was doing. Probably he seemed lost on some plays because of the lack of safety help. Still, he was targeted enough to wind up with 57 tackles, mostly in the passing game, and still only came up with 1 INT. I never love being a hater. I wish my favorite players could last forever, but Mathis is getting to the point where I think he's legitimately lost a step and he was never the fastest guy to start with. With proper safety help, he can be a passable "Cover 2" corner, but he peaked a few years ago and is on his way down. He should not be trusted one-on-one or in the deep passing game.
Basically, you don't get to 28th in total pass defense and have a good-looking secondary. At times, the Jaguars' pass coverage was abysmal, but at other times individual players stood out. Derek Cox and Courtney Greene are the future of the Jaguars secondary, and basically everyone else is replaceable. William Middleton is a decent nickel option, Tyron Brackenridge is a solid special teamer and a possible dime guy/backup safety also. Who knows what the future holds for Scotty McGee, who is technically a CB/ returner. I'd say the Jaguars have a serious need at FS and CB. Don Carey and Rashean Mathis cannot be allowed to return without having to battle for their positions on the field. If they are, it is a sad day for the Jaguars defense, because both of those guys were bad last year. I'm expecting the Jaguars to draft a CB, and the team will likely sign a secondary player in free agency as well. Hopefully that'll be enough to make our secondary respectable.
If the Jags can get their secondary to a respectable spot heading into next year, I believe the offense is strong enough to carry the team. With the roster the way it is, young, the Jaguars could potentially get enough breakout performances from second year players to make a legitimate run at the playoffs next year. In Gene We Trust.