Last year Derrick Harvey was entering his second season on the Jacksonville Jaguars and many expected him to have a jump in production from his rookie season. The former University of Florida defensive stand out had a slow rookie season, but towards the end of the year it looked like the light had come on for him. He ended the season strong with a two sack performance against the Baltimore Ravens.
Harvey was expected to have a jump in production his sophomore season in the NFL, given how he looked at the end of the season. By all accounts, he was having a great off-season and training camp as well. Then the mess of the 2009 defense began. The coaching staff didn't know if they wanted to run a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense. They experimented with both all pre-season and even during the regular season. Derrick Harvey was cast into the abyss, without a real position.
He played primarily 3-4 outside linebacker to start, and surprisingly looked alright at it given the fact he had bulked up to around 280 pounds. He of course was a liability in pass coverage, which led to things like him being off the field for nearly the entire second half in the first game of the season against the Indianapolis Colts, while the Jaguars played in a 3-3-5 alignment. In that same game, the Jaguars lost veteran defensive end Reggie Hayward for the season which further sent the defense into a confusion.
Harvey then moved in to play 3-4 defensive end, which like outside linebacker he played just fine at. The problem was however, he was drafted 8th overall to hit the quarterback not hold the point of attack. This went on throughout the season of bouncing back and forth and even playing some defensive tackle on pass rushing downs, but at the end of the year Harvey settled into his true position, left defensive end. Harvey was able to generate a pass rush from the LDE position while still holding up against the run. Harvey actually became a force against the run because of his ability to get into the backfield and stop plays for loss.
Alas, Harvey still ended the season with only two sacks and much criticism. The criticism was understandable, as he was the guy who was supposed to solve the Jaguars pass rushing problem they've had since Tony Brackens was released. After two seasons, Harvey had only 5.5 sacks.
During the off-season the Jaguars made a change at defensive line coach, firing Ted Monachino and hiring former Detroit Lions defensive line coach Joe Cullen. Cullen was very familiar with Derrick Harvey, as the Lions were interested in drafting him. The first thing Joe Cullen did when he got to Jacksonville was to get Harvey back to speed rusher weight. No more 280 pound pass rushing defensive end.
"I thought bigger was better," Harvey said. "Speed is better. You've got to be rushing all day, and you can't be 280 rushing in this heat."
"If you can gain a step, that's going to help," Cullen said.
Indeed it is going to help. Quite a few times last season Derrick Harvey was just a step away from a sack or a quarterback hit. According to Jaguars This Week, Harvey is back down to 265 pounds, lighter than his weight when he was drafted eighth overall. Even after just a short stint in mini-camp and OTA's, Harvey has already drawn praise from his new position coach, his head coach, and his general manager.
"I see a work in progress," coach Jack Del Rio said. "I see a guy that's making improvement and changing his body. He's leaner. He's stronger. He's more fit, and I think he's doing a nice job of pushing as coach Cullen is going to ensure and insist that he does."
Harvey is entering his third season in the NFL and he should have a break out year. The defensive line as a whole has gone through a lot of change, and Harvey's survived the bloodletting. Currently, he remains the only player from the 2008 draft on the Jaguars roster. It's a big season for Derrick Harvey and he knows it.
"It's all on me," Harvey said. "I've got to perform."
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