When Jack Del Rio made Gregg Williams the team's new defensive coordinator this past winter, everybody wondered how Williams was going to play the kind of attack scheme for which he is known.
Williams was taking over a defense that was nibbled to death in the playoffs by Tom Brady. He was the new boss of a defense last season that played a lot of soft coverage schemes designed to deny the big play. The Jaguars had no choice but to play that way, due to the lack of a consistent pass-rush.
Well, in the matter of a few hours on Saturday, the Jaguars acquired two players who should allow Williams to turn up the heat on quarterbacks in '08. Trading up in the first and second rounds, the Jaguars selected defensive ends Derrick Harvey of Florida and Quentin Groves of Auburn, possibly the two most natural pass-rushers in this year's draft.
OK, so what's the skinny on what the Jaguars did? Good or bad? Shrewd or foolish?
When the day began, the Jaguars had eight picks, including two in the third round and three in the fifth round. They had no picks in the sixth or seventh rounds. When Saturday ended, the Jaguars had just two fifth-round picks remaining for their Sunday workload.
The easy math is that Harvey and Groves cost the Jaguars half of their '08 picks and one of their '09 selections. Unless the Jaguars start trading players for picks, they will end this draft on Sunday with the smallest class in franchise history.
"When you look at it at the end of the day, the players we got are values at need positions, whereas the players at the back end (of the draft) may not have made the team," personnel boss James Harris said.
There's a deep message in those words and the message is obvious: The Jaguars have reached the point of such roster strength that having a lot of picks is a waste of time, money and resources. The even deeper message is: This team may have only had one need as it headed into this draft, and that need may have been fully and satisfactorily addressed in the trades that allowed for the selections of Harvey and Groves.
Should it turn out that way, Del Rio and Harris are going to be celebrated as draft-day geniuses. Should Harvey and Groves give the Jaguars the pass-rush the team needs to return to past glories on the defensive side of the ball, and should that put the Jaguars over the mythical hump, Del Rio and Harris will have made the best trades in Jaguars history since Tom Coughlin traded for Mark Brunell the night before the team's first-ever selection meeting.
"We've played good defense around here the last five years," Del Rio said.
Last year, however, the Jaguars defense declined. It fell to 12th overall and it struggled against the pass in the playoffs against the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger and Brady. The lack of a consistent pass-rush from the front four was blamed, and the prospects for improvement were not good, until Saturday.
Reggie Hayward is attempting to make a comeback from Achilles surgery. Paul Spicer will turn 33 in training camp. Bobby McCray was lost in free agency and the Jaguars were unable to address their need at defensive end in free agency.
Any kind of improvement in the pass-rush was all riding on this draft. The Jaguars were desperate – that's not an exaggeration – and they got lucky twice: 1.) They should've never been able to move up 18 spots in the first round. 2.) It was a shock that Groves was still available in round two.
The luck that seemed to join the Jaguars team late last season would seem to still be on the team's roster. The Jaguars are on a roll. Everything keeps going their way.
"We've improved our ability to affect the quarterback with what we did today," Del Rio said. "That's part of doing business the way we have," he added of coming away with a small draft class; "going up and getting a few targeted players. With our roster the way it is, it would be difficult for those guys (late-round picks) to legitimately be here."
This year's draft class is weak. That's not a fact, just an opinion. It lacked stars and it lacked depth. You had to pick your guys and go get them and that's exactly what the Jaguars did. That's more opinion.
Williams now has the players he needs to play the attack-style defense he loves. His counterpart, Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter, has a quarterback on the rise and a lot of weapons around him. Their owner, Wayne Weaver, has spent a lot of money giving each man what he needs.
The enthusiasm that is building in Jaguars fans will only grow as a result of the Jaguars' aggressiveness in acquiring Harvey and Groves. It's only April but the playoffs are in the air.
Hey, when things are going your way, why get conservative?