Bring on the pass-rushers

Jaguars’ need is great

Monday, March 1, 2010 By Vic Ketchman, jaguars.com senior editor
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INDIANAPOLIS—Monday provides the feature attraction of this year’s scouting combine for the Jaguars, who will have their eyes trained on this year’s crop of pass-rushers during defensive line workouts. It is a deep and talented group of pass-rushers and the Jaguars have the 10th pick of the draft.

“Great pass-rushers are guys who are highly competitive and bring a higher energy level up front. I think by sheer numbers we have a chance to match value and need,” Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith said.

His team was last in the league in sacks last season; it set a franchise record for the fewest sacks in a season. The need is distinct. Who might fill it?

Derrick Morgan of Georgia Tech and Jason Pierre-Paul of South Florida head the contingent of defensive ends. Michigan’s Brandon Graham, the star of the Senior Bowl and possibly the best pure pass-rusher in this draft, is thought to be headed for a team with a 3-4 defense.

Six pass-rushers are potential first-round picks and there’s enough remaining quality to find one in the second round and beyond. The Jaguars don’t have a second-round pick but Smith has said he’d like to trade down in the first round and acquire extra picks.

Pass-rushers, however, represent major risk. They are boom-bust prospects who go off the board quickly and command huge salaries. They can be the bane of a general manager’s existence.

“You have to determine how they’re getting their sacks because there’s a lot of fraud production. Are they getting them off schemes? Is it off a matchup with an undersized back?” Smith said of the difficult evaluation that accompanies pass-rushers.

“Stats can be misleading. We don’t rely on stats,” Smith added. “We do sack tapes and we study their sack history. We’re trying to obtain tape of every sack we can get.”

What Smith wants to see is a sack in a “one-one-one contested situation against a quality offensive lineman.” The evaluations of what Smith refers to as “padded exposures” are done and his value board is assembled. What happens on Monday at Lucas Oil Stadium will either confirm his opinion of this draft’s pass-rushers, or cause him to seek more tape and information.

“I don’t think there’s any question that it has depth to it,” Smith said of the pass-rush crop. “People will identify players they like. It’s just whether they’re in position to draft that player. We’re going to stay true to our board.”


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