The Jaguars have some new faces in the secondary this year, and they'll be tested early and often by Peyton Manning. After getting over my initial disappointment at the release of my favorite Jaguar, I decided to play scout (I know what to look for in a just about every position except TE, QB, SS, because their positions are so scheme based you can't always tell if the player executed his role propely). I re-watched the game focusing solely on Derek Cox and how he plays the position.
Proven and versatile (albeit overpaid) RCB Brian Williams was given his walking papers, and at first you may think he'll be sorely missed, especailly early in the season. Brian's veteran savvy is always helpful against a brilliant defensive manipulator like Peyton Manning. I am typically very realistic in my expectations, as many of you know. I think this is a rebuilding year without question.
However, I am telling you all right now, based on his sole preseason performance (in which he started at RCB), against Washington's above average receiving corp. Derek Cox is already better than Brian Williams from an athletic perspective. HIs body type, which can be a worry for some rookies, is already NFL ready. Now, on to my evaluation of what I saw after rewatching the game
Derek has better recovery speed than anyone else on the defense (This is a 6'1" man who ran a 4.3 at his pro-day) Even Mathis or Nelson can't match his speed, and don't you dare argue with me. Literally, I watched on one play where he gave the WR maybe 7 yards of cushion, then back peddled at the start of the cadence to close to 10 yards, only to explode back toward the WR right before the snap, re-routing him without contact and allowing himself to blanket the WR the entire play.This type of maneuver wasn't limited to this one instance, but this was the most impressive explosive moves I've seen, and is the type of play that could lead to a INT (like Mathis loves to do), or confusion on the QB's part leading to a coverage sack.
Derek Cox has very fluid hips, allowing him to maximize his speed. Just because a player can run 40 yards really fast, doesn't mean he has fluid hips to change direction at fast speeds and get turned with the WR to prevent the play. That was something Brian struggled with occasionally (Remember all the pass interference penalties for "face-guarding" by B-Dub, that's a result of stiff hips), and Cox seems to be a big improvement in that area.
Derek Cox is the most physical corner on the team, and is a better tackler than any DB, sans Considine. There was a 3rd and 8 play where Washington completed a pass 4 yards short of the sticks, and the player had a good 2 yards to build up steam, he collided with the DB, who I thought was B-Dub delivering one of his patented hits, and the player got completely knocked silly... Once I saw the replay, I was pleasently surprised to see it wasn't Brian, it was Derek, making a bone shattering hit. THIS WAS THE PLAY WHEN IT FINALLY HIT ME... BRIAN WASN'T GOING TO BE A JAGUAR ANYMORE...
Derek Cox isn't afraid to play the run, and he was shedding WR blocks left and right during the game, he's powerful and it shows. He'll be an asset in the run game, which as everyone knows, is a prerequisite to being a Jaguar.
Sometimes he overestimates his recovery speed, I fear. I saw one play where he must've been 12 yards back, now granted, it was a third and long situation, but if his man catches the pass, he better make that tackle. I also caught him watching the QB's eyes quite a few times, which allowed his man to get behind him, he got beat even though the ball didn't go to his man. Peyton will play games with his eyes and if Derek isn't careful, he's going to get severly schooled opening day. I mean badly. You can take risks like that in a Cover-Two defense, but not against Peyton, he's the best at what he does.
Derek Cox has another problem that was painfully evident watching the Redskins game. He isn't mentally prepared. He was lost time and time again (3 or 4 times I counted, I think) where he was checking with the MLB or Safety as to the coverage he was supposed to play. If Peyton sees that, he'll hike it early and beat you for a quick 7-8 yards. I can't stress enough how much of a test this game will be for our new and improved RCB. Don't crucify him if he has a bad game... He almost assuredly will, but I can promise you this, he's the future and will surpass B-Dub's ability by week 4-6. This kid is a find.