The Jacksonville Jaguars entered the 2013 NFL Draft with a plethora of needs, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The team is transitioning to a new defensive scheme going forward under Gus Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell had that in mind when the team drafted five defensive backs in the draft.
"That is the one thing we had to kind of change and fix to a degree," Caldwell told the media on Saturday after the draft concluded. "We just had some vacant roster spots in the secondary when we came in and a couple were a little bit more. We created our own urgency there quickly into our tenure here. So we knew that we had to draft but we also knew that it was a good year for the secondary for this year’s draft so that was our mindset."
The Jaguars lost 2012 starting cornerbacks Derrick Cox, Rashean Mathis, and released cornerback Aaron Ross. The team also released veteran safety Dawan Landry, leaving the roster needing new starting defensive backs at every position except free safety, as Dwight Lowery remains as the only 2012 starter in the backfield still on the roster.
In the second round of the draft the Jaguars drafted safety Jonathan Cyprien, who looks to be slotted in as the team's starting strong safety.
"He fits the mold of what we’re looking for in terms of Gus’ defense and being a system specific drafting team," Caldwell said on Friday evening. "We felt like he fits our defense and what we’re looking for out of our strong safety position."
In the third round the Jaguars went and drafted Dwayne Gratz out of Connecticut, who's a cornerback with size, speed, and length that the team looks for at the cornerback position. "I think he has to compete for it (starting job), but from the length, the size, the speed and athleticism he has all the tools to do it so we feel good about him coming in and competing as a starter," Caldwell told the media after the third round.
It appeared as if the Jaguars had picked up two new starters in the defensive backfield, but they didn't stop there. The team was essentially gutted at the corner and safety position, so Caldwell went back to the well in the sixth and seventh rounds.
Caldwell may have hit on a gem however in Florida Gators safety Josh Evans, who many had rated as a third round prospect and felt was overshadowed by first-round pick Matt Elam. Evans was still available in the sixth round and Caldwell and Bradley decided to scoop him up, in large part because of the system he played in at Florida. Evans played some single high safety and appears to be able to play both roles on the Jaguars defense.
" I think there’s going to be a battle there but I don’t want to just pigeonhole those two (Evans and Cyprien) into our strong safeties. The two best safeties will play to add with the guys that we have. I think we have a group that we can start to take a really strong look at," Bradley said Saturday evening. "I told our team, it’s no surprise. They know that this competition is not over now. We can get free agents and we’ll keep adding to this team. That’s my commitment as a coach is to keep raising the bar on the level of play that we expect, and I’m committed to our players to do that."
In the final round of the NFL Draft the Jaguars doubled up on tall, fast, and long cornerbacks with Jeremy Harris in Demetrius McCray, both of which who are at least 6'1" with 33" arms and have experience playing press coverage. It's looking like the Jaguars are trying to mimic what the Seattle Seahawks did on defense, with long defensive backs who are competitive and physical.
It's possible the Jaguars could have four brand new starters in the secondary at some point next season.
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