Gene Smith is in his second season as the Jaguars general manager and senior vice president, player personnel. Smith's first two drafts have netted 15 players and all 15 remain with the club, and the group has made 106 combined starts.
Six of the 15 players are regular starters including right tackle Eben Britton (2nd round, 2009) who was placed on injured reserve after suffering a shoulder injury in week seven at Kansas City. In addition to the draft picks, Smith and his staff have acquired several young players who have played vital roles for the club through the first eight games.
In week eight at Dallas, the Jaguars had nine first or second-year players in the starting lineup including three players who were drafted by other teams in 2009. Defensive back William Middleton (Atlanta, 5th round), safety Courtney Greene (Seattle, 7th round) and defensive back Don Carey (Cleveland, 6th round) were all signed by the Jaguars last year after they were waived by their respective teams.
Injuries have sent of two of the six picks from 2010 to injured reserve but the Jaguars are still getting valuable contributions from the class. Smith sat down with jaguars.com to give a scout's perspective to what he has seen from this year's draft class:
Defensive tackle Tyson Alualu (Round 1, 10th overall, California)
Alualu is the only rookie to start the first eight games and he has made his presence known. He ranks third on the club with 2.5 sacks, tied for third with 10 quarterback hits and is fifth with 45 tackles. His four tackles for loss are tied for the third-most on the team.
Alualu began the season with a sack in two of the first three games and has registered at least one quarterback hit in seven of eight games including a season-high three in week three against Philadelphia. He produced one sack, one tackle for loss and two quarterback hits last Sunday at Dallas.
Smith's take: "Tyson has been everything we thought he would be. He is a top competitor who has tremendous pride in how he performs, which I think is key to being successful at whatever you do in life. He knows how to play with leverage and possesses the core strength to be a disruptive run defender. He's an explosive athlete with quick feet and hands that enable him to get on the edge of blocks as a pass rusher."
Defensive tackle D'Anthony Smith (Round 3, 74th overall, Louisiana Tech)
Smith injured his Achilles early in training camp and was placed on injured reserve on August 31. He impressed the staff during the OTAs with his aggressive nature and ability to get to the quarterback. He was a two-time first-team All-Western Athletic Conference selection and finished his college career with 23.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks.
Smith's take: "D'Anthony is rehabbing and training well after having surgery for the Achilles tendon injury. By what he exhibited before his injury, he definitely would have made an impact in our front this season. The defensive line really needs to be a 'strength in numbers' position group because of the situational defenses you play, and D'Anthony has a lot of the same explosive movements and athleticism as Tyson. He'll in essence be an extra draft selection for us next season."
Defensive end Larry Hart (Round 5, 143rd overall, Central Arkansas)
Hart has played a pass-rushing role in the defensive line rotation in all eight games. He has is tied for third on the team with 10 quarterback hits and added six tackles and one pass defensed. His ability to get to the quarterback is no surprise considering he recorded 21.5 sacks in two seasons at Central Arkansas.
Smith's take: "Larry has really started to emerge as a sub rusher these last two weeks in particular. He's got an explosive first step off the snap and can bend the corner as a pass rusher. He's got excellent hip strength to get up and under larger offensive tackles, which allows him to use a blend of power and speed as a pass rusher. He's developing his counter moves and is still learning how to work the edges of the pass blocker better and to finish his rushes."
Defensive end Austen Lane (Round 5, 153rd overall, Murray State)
Lane has played in three games and made his first career start last Sunday at Dallas. He had three tackles, one tackle for loss and two quarterback hits against the Cowboys in a season-high 27 snaps. He concluded his collegiate career with 29 sacks and 55 tackles for loss.
Smith's take: "Austen is a rugged, hard-charging and effort-filled left defensive end type. His snap anticipation has improved and he's doing a better job of stepping out instead of up off on ball movement. He's shown the ability to play the hard flow run and he's starting to stress the offensive tackles more as a pass rusher. The one thing Austen has done naturally is counter back once he starts to get deeper than ball depth, and for a left end that is key to get into the quarterbacks' throwing lanes, especially versus three step or whenever they step up into the pocket to deliver the ball."
Running back/kickoff returner Deji Karim (Round 6, 180th overall, Southern Illinois)
It didn't take long for Karim to display his playmaking ability as a kickoff returner and running back. After sitting out the first four games with thumb injury, Karim contributed with 215 all-purpose yards in his debut in week five at Buffalo. He carried the ball 15 times for 70 yards including runs of 13 and 15 yards against the Bills, and compiled 145 yards as a kickoff returner.
Through four games, he has returns of 31, 32, 34, 35, 41 and 51 yards. He has rushed for 105 yards on 27 carries.
Smith's take: "Deji is a shifty running back with instant acceleration. I would describe him as a bigger Mike Thomas, because he's got a lot of the same playmaking abilities. He runs low to the ground and can be a pile-popper with the speed to finish a run. He's improved his route running and pass blocking which has enabled him to earn more playing snaps with our offense. Obviously, he's got a knack for returning kickoffs with the ability to set blocks and his run decisiveness and burst to hit the crease are assets."
Return specialist Scotty McGee (Round 6, 203rd overall, James Madison)
McGee gave the Jaguars a glimpse of what they can expect in 2011 during this year's preseason. He missed the first two regular season games with a shoulder injury before he was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 21. McGee played in all four preseason games and finished with a 29.3-yard average on 10 kickoff returns with a long of 47 yards and a 9.9-yard average on 11 punt returns with a long of 30.
Smith's take: "Scotty is rehabbing and training well as he's recovering from his shoulder injury. He displayed the same instant acceleration as Deji with the ball in his hands. He's a strong and compactly-built return specialist with a fearless attitude. Along with Deji, Scotty can be a field position and momentum changer for us in the future on special teams."
Here's a look at the nine players selected in the Jaguars 2009 draft:
Offensive tackle Eugene Monroe (Round 1, 8th overall, Virginia) – Has started at left tackle in 21 games including 13 as a rookie.
Offensive tackle Eben Britton (Round 2, 39th overall, Arizona) – Started 22 games at right tackle. Suffered a shoulder injury in week seven at Kansas City and was placed on injured reserve.
Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton (Round 3, 72nd overall, Temple) – Has started 24 straight games to open his career. Ranks second on team with three sacks, five tackles for loss and 15 quarterback hits.
Cornerback Derek Cox (Round 3, 73rd overall, William & Mary) – Started 19 of 21 games and leads team with six interceptions during that span. He tied a franchise single-game record with two interceptions last Sunday at Dallas.
Wide receiver Mike Thomas (Round 4, 107th overall, Arizona) – Leads the team with 33 receptions for 387 yards in eight games. Serves as team's punt returner and ranks third in the AFC with an 11.3-yard average. His 33-yard run at Buffalo is the longest rush this season for the Jaguars.
Wide receiver Jarett Dillard (Round 5, 144th overall, Rice) – Played in seven games as a rookie and was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 11 for the second consecutive season.
Tight end Zach Miller (Round 6, 180th overall, Nebraska-Omaha) – Former college quarterback has played in 22 games. Has played a vital role on special teams this season and is tied for second on the team with seven tackles. Career totals include 31 receptions for 288 yards and two touchdowns.
Running back Rashad Jennings (Round 7, 250th overall, Liberty) –Has played in 20 games and has career totals of 58 rushes for 291 yards and a touchdown along with 24 receptions for 178 yards.
Wide receiver Tiquan Underwood (Round 7, 253rd overall, Rutgers) – Appeared in 11 games his first two seasons. Has a 24.3-yard kickoff return average on 21 returns along with seven receptions for 104 yards.