The Jacksonville Jaguars have made serious overhauls to their defense during the 2011 NFL free agency period, just like they said they would. General Manager Gene Smith was aggressive early, signing linebackers Paul Posluszny and Clint Session to long-term, hefty contracts. Smith went out and grabbed safety Dawan Landry from the Baltimore Ravens and picked up experienced nickelback Drew Coleman from the New York Jets. On opening day, it's expected a Jaguars defense that was one of the worst in the NFL last season will have at least four new starters at key positions.
Four of the Jaguars key free agent signings can't even practice until possibly this afternoon, when the CBA is expected to be fully ratified. Missing the first full week of practice however, doesn't give the defense any kind of excuses, head coach Jack Del Rio won't accept them. "We've got the pre-season to get that ironed out. I'm not looking for any kind of grace period with this defense," Del Rio told reporters.
He shouldn't look for any grace period, either. The Jaguars aren't throwing rookies into the starting line ups, they're inserting 4-5+ year veterans into the mix, who should pick up the defense rather quickly. It might be rough for the first pre-season game, but after that they should be able to settle in. "Guys we're assembling and counting on for the most part are veterans, guys that aren't working right now," Del Rio said.
"There's not going to be a built-in cushion of acceptable below high-standards because of this time crunch. There is a time crunch all around the league," said Del Rio. There will be a time crunch leaguewide, so there shouldn't be much of an advantage. "We're going to expect to play coming out of the gate as a football team winning football, and defensively we've got a lot of work to do," added Del Rio.
In 2010, the Jaguars defense was ranked 28th overall on defense, coming in at 31st against the pass and 22nd against the run. The Jaguars don't need to rank in the Top 10 in any of these catagories to play winning football, they just need to climb from the cellar to at least the middle of the pack.