FanPost

Does Kirk Morrison deserve another shot?

It's common knowledge that the Jacksonville LB corps is about to be blown up and rebuilt with the potential addition of pro free agency pickups.  The only star in that position group is dependable Daryl Smith, who had another solid year this past season.  Justin Durant, while possessing the right athletic ability for the position, is about to be let go due to inconsistent play and consistent injury.  Kirk Morrison, last year's draft-day trade for practically nothing, came into Jax heralded as the answer to the void left at MLB since Mike P was let go.  With his contract expiring this year and the Jags making no effort to resign him before the lockout, it's believed GM Gene is content to let him go, as his play seemed average at best last year.  I'd like to bring up the idea that maybe Morrison deserves one more shot.

To be honest, I was of the opinion that Morrison was a thoroughly mediocre middle linebacker last year.  He seemed to play the run decently and was less than stellar against the pass.  Reading Football Outsiders this morning, I came across this article:

http://footballoutsiders.com/stat-analysis/2011/most-run-defeats-2010

In it, they list the run defeats and stops of every defensive player, regardless of position.  A defeat is characterized as any play that results in a loss of yardage, a turnover, or stops a 3rd or 4th down conversion.  (As an aside, our very own Daryl Smith led the league in defeats this past year).  A stop is any play that stops the offense from what FO considers success.  

Number 3 overall is Kirk Morrison.  He's behind only Chad Greenway and London Fletcher with 15 run defeats, 51 run stops and 4 pass defeats.  (As an additional aside, Daryl Smith is one spot behind him at 4 with 15 run defeats, 37 run stops and 20 pass defeats.)  

Morrison clearly played exceptionally well against the run, while being below average on passing plays.  As MLB his primary responsibility is to stop the run, and he has done a great job of fulfilling that role.  Granted, he does have the luxury of coming in unblocked due to the double teams Pot Roast and Alualu are handling, so there is the possibility that anyone in his position could have done the same.  Also, he didn't miss many tackles when he was the primary defender, but the few he did miss were significant runs, with some going for TDs.

Seeing his name at the top of that list, ahead of other elite defenders such as Lawrence Timmons, Brian Urlacher and Ray Lewis, makes me reconsider the popular notion that he played at a below average level.  Heading into a free agency year with clear needs at DB, DE, LB and even WR, is it more sensible to retain a veteran who plays the run better than almost anyone else and cut down your list of needs?  Or are his deficiencies against the pass so egregious that a Barret Ruud or Paul Posluszny must replace him? 

FanPosts do not necessarily reflect the views of the authors of Big Cat Country or SB Nation.

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