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A very good fit

Posted Nov 2, 2011

Posluszny, free agent class help Jaguars defense turn around

Paul Posluszny has seen free agency go bad, and he’s seen it go good.

He and anyone else who follows the NFL had seen situations in which free agents didn’t work. Posluszny, the Jaguars’ starting middle linebacker, knew the aftermath often wasn’t pretty.

Major disappointment. Inconsistent results. Big-time dissatisfaction.

Not only did Posluszny want to avoid such a situation this past summer, but other defensive players who signed with the Jaguars – players such as safety Dawan Landry and cornerback Drew Coleman – said they very much did, too.

“Sometimes, you have a situation with a high-profile guy and he’s not a right fit,” Posluszny said Wednesday following the second of two bye-week practices for the Jaguars.

“You see cases where everyone thinks he’s a great player, but is he the right fit for that scheme and that team? I really think it’s very, very important to be in a situation where you fit and you fit well.”

Eight weeks into the 2011 NFL season, for whatever else hasn’t gone right for the Jaguars, this much is clear:

Free agency on the defense was a pretty darned good fit.

Not only has Posluszny emerged as one of the NFL’s best 2011 free agency signings, playing all but one play for the Jaguars and leading the team in tackles, but other off-season acquisitions also have contributed to one of the NFL’s biggest defensive turnarounds:

*Dawan Landry, signed as a starting safety from Baltimore, is third on the team in tackles with 57 and has an interception, three passes defensed and a tackle for loss.

*Drew Coleman, signed as a nickelback from the New York Jets, has 24 tackles with one sack, an interception, two passes defensed and a tackle for a loss with a forced fumble. His interception in the fourth quarter clinched a 12-7 victory over Baltimore in late October.

*Clint Session, signed as starting outside linebacker from Indianapolis, has 36 tackles, a sack, two tackles for losses and two quarterback pressures with a forced fumble. He has had his best two games of the season in recent weeks, and forced a fumble with a sack this past week against Houston.

*Matt Roth, signed as a defensive end from Cleveland, has a team-high three sacks with 27 tackles and nine quarterback pressures.

Dwight Lowery, acquired in a late preseason trade with the Jets, has moved into a starting safety role, and along with Landry has solidified an area that was generally believed to be a weakness last season.

Lowery has a team-high two interceptions with seven passes defensed.

“I think you have guys who have come in who clearly in a short period of time have earned the respect of their teammates by how they approach their profession,” Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith said. “You have some gym-rat mentalities, guys who work at their craft. A lot of the guys had reputations in the league that were well-known in terms of how they prepare and the type of people they are.”

The free agents not only all joined the team in training camp and had limited time to learn the defense, they also were unable to practice for the first week. Coleman said while the circumstances were difficult, “We just all had an instant bond.”

“A lot was asked of us in a short time, with such an off-season and missing the first part of camp,” Coleman said. “We pulled together, and watched film. We knew what our role was going to be, and we just wanted to put our best foot forward.”

The Jaguars, after ranking 28th in the NFL in total defense last season, have been one of the NFL’s best defenses this season since the beginning. They held the Tennessee Titans to 14 points in a season-opening victory, and have held five of eight opponents under 300 yards.

They currently rank seventh in the NFL.

“All the guys who we brought in play similarly,” Landry said. “We are guys who play fast and like to run to the ball, and get into a lot of plays, a lot of contact. I think that’s why it was a fit for most of us. When I was with the Ravens, I saw the Jaguars’ defense flying around and I said, ‘Man, that looks like the Ravens.’’’

Landry said before signing with the Jaguars he spoke extensively with Jaguars linebacker Daryl Smith, with whom he had played at Georgia Tech.

“I got a good feel from him, so I was excited about it,’’ Landry said.

While Landry worked the knowledge of a former teammate, Posluszny said it was communication with Gene Smith that sold him on the decision. Posluszny said he had been in a bad situation in his final year in Buffalo. Head Coach Chan Gailey had brought in a new coaching staff, and the 3-4 defensive scheme being employed didn’t match his skills.

His goal in July? Finding a new team, yes, but just as important finding the right one.

“I wanted to make sure I was going to a situation where the GM wanted me and where my defensive coordinator and position coach wanted me,” Posluszny said. “I had to make a decision very fast. I got a great feel from him (Smith) about what the organization was about and what my role was going to be by talking with him. He was able to explain a lot of that very clearly. That really helped out, to help me make the right decision.

“I really think it’s very, very important to be in a situation where you fit and you fit well. For me, I think that’s part of it. You see it happen all the time, where it doesn’t work.

“For us, so far, it’s really worked out well.”

Also around the Jaguars Wednesday:

*Defensive end Jeremy Mincey said while the pass rush has continued to improve this season, it still can be better in the second half of the season. The Jaguars have recorded 16 sacks this season, including 13 in the last five games. “Progress is always a sign of getting better,” Mincey said. “We’re getting better, basically. I feel like we’ve got a lot more to give. We have to stay strong and keep it going.”

*Wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker (knee) missed practice, and offensive tackle/guard Eben Britton (back) also missed practice. Wide receiver Cecil Shorts, safety Courtney Greene, defensive end John Chick and fullback Brock Bolen appeared limited during practice.

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