Last year the Jaguars defense, simply put, wasn't very good. I'll spare you the details because we've pounded the lack of pass rush issue into the ground. Gene Smith was very aware of the poor defensive play and made the steps necessary to rectify the issue. Step one was to sign 2 time Pro Bowl defensive end, Aaron Kampman, in free agency. Step two was to draft four defensive lineman with the first 4 picks of the 2010 draft. Finally, step three was to trade for Kirk Morrison, the former Raider linebacker with triple digit tackles in each season of his career in Oakland.
With all the comings and goings, the defense will have a different look than the atrocity that was the Jaguars 2009 defense. With that said, the starting lineup seems to be much easier to pencil in than the offense that returns much more personnel. Most of the training camp battles on defense will be for more playing time in a rotational defense and for roster spots.
It seems a lock that Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox will be the two starting corners barring injury. The fight for the nickelback spot will be interesting. The contenders are Scott Starks, William Middleton, Don Carey, Michael Coe, Josh Gordy and Tyron Brackenridge. In all likelihood, 3 will make the squad and 3 will be released.
Carey is a fan favorite of many despite having never played in a game or even a padded practice. Here's a good read from our own, Terry on Black & Teal that I guarantee will get you feeling good about Don Carey. Starks is recovering from injury, but if he returns fully healthy he's likely the favorite for the 3rd corner spot. William Middleton may not be the corner that the other players are, but there's a very good chance he makes the roster due to his special teams ability. According to ProFootballFocus, Middleton was the best special teams player in the AFC South last season. Better than Montell Owens even.
So does that make Tyron Brackenridge, a starter at one point in 2009, an underdog for a roster spot? Perhaps. Gordy and Coe are the ones that will have to show a whole lot to make the roster, because in my opinion, as of right now they're both on the outside looking in.
The Jaguars have 4 linebackers that can be considered all but locks for the final roster with the starting three penciled in. Justin Durant, Kirk Morrison and Daryl Smith are the starting group with Russell Allen as the backup. How many more linebackers will make the team though? Your guess is as good as mine. A fair guess by comparing to last year's roster would be 6 or 7. Those last few spots will be up for grabs between Kyle Bosworth, Jacob Cutrera, Freddy Keiaho, Teddy Lehman and Aaron Morgan.
Unless the Jaguars acquire another linebacker during training camp or the preseason, it seems safe to assume that at least one undrafted linebacker will make the squad considering 3 of the 5 in the running for the last few spots went undrafted.
Was the safety play poor in 2009 due to bad players or a lack of a pass rush? That's certainly up for debate, but what's not up for debate is whether or not the play for satisfactory. It clearly wasn't. Aside from maybe Gerald Alexander, the current group of safeties makes the average Jaguars fan uneasy about the 2010 defense. Reggie Nelson will probably live to see another season although his rope is definitely thinning. The rest of the safeties are rounded out with Sean Considine, Courtney Greene, Anthony Smith and Terrell Whitehead.
The starting positions along with the roster spots are certainly up for grabs amongst all the contenders. On an optomistic note, at least Brian Russell plays for Houston now.