Head coach Jack Del Rio said he'll allow competition to determine who replaces Hugh Douglas at right defensive end, but rushing the passer this season is likely to involve several players and multiple personnel combinations.
"In the end, we're looking for more speed off the edge," Del Rio told reporters of what went into his decision to cut Douglas. "We have formed some opinions," he said of the new pecking order at right defensive end, "but I don't care to talk about that publicly. You're likely to see two or three guys coming from that position."
Del Rio's press conference this morning also revealed that tight end Kyle Brady will undergo hand surgery on Tuesday and will be lost to the team for a "minimum of three weeks," Del Rio said. Brady sustained an injury to his middle finger in Friday's preseason win over the Green Bay Packers.
The Jaguars also released quarterback Doug Johnson, wide receiver Jimmy Redmond and running back Frank Moreau, and will assign rookie linebacker Jorge Cordova to the injured reserve list. Those moves leave the Jaguars at 69 players on their roster, including four NFL Europe League roster exemptions. Teams must have cut their rosters to 65 players, plus exemptions, by four p.m. on Tuesday.
Douglas' release was the headline news, exactly one week after the team waived Tony Brackens. Douglas and Brackens were last season's starting defensive ends and those two positions have now been turned over to a group that has a combined 16 starts at the position.
Paul Spicer, who has nine career starts, is set at one end. Rob Meier started seven games at right end in 2002 when Brackens was on the injured reserve list. Brandon Green is a second-year player who spent nearly all of last season on IR, Bobby McCray is a promising rookie who offers distinct pass-rush ability, and Lionel Barnes and Courtland Bullard are journeymen attempting to stick on the roster.
"In Hugh's case, in particular, we thought it was time to move on," Del Rio said in explaining his cuts. "He's been a model citizen. We gave him every opportunity and continued our evaluation.
"Given the combination of guys we have available, we can affect the quarterback with the young guys. We're going to let them compete and sort themselves out. We'll do various things to utilize our personnel," Del Rio added.
Starting linebacker Akin Ayodele is also likely to be added to the Jaguars' pass-rush combination at defensive end. Ayodele played end in college and has shown distinct pass-rush ability from a down-end position.
"Absolutely," Del Rio said. "He's certainly one of the guys we're going to give more opportunity to rush the quarterback.
"We feel like we've added quality players at linebacker and we're going to utilize their abilities. The goal is to keep the best 53 guys," Del Rio added.
Versatility would seem to be at the heart of Del Rio's defensive strategy. He even suggested that defensive tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson may be used as ends.
"The belief that we have guys like Paul Spicer and Rob Meier who can go inside, and Marcus Stroud and John Henderson who can go outside; this is something we've been talking about for many months. We have not ruled out anything," Del Rio said of possible defensive line combinations.
Douglas was signed to a rich free-agent contract in 2003, but suffered through the worst season of his distinguished nine-year career. He contributed only 3.5 sacks in '03 and, this summer, described himself as having been in a "funk" all year.
"I got into a funk and I never got out of it until the end of the season," Douglas told reporters during the first week of training camp. He vowed to make amends and appeared to be in better physical condition and possessing greater energy in this year's camp than he had last season.
But it didn't translate into an improved performance on the field. Through three preseason games, Douglas had one solo tackle, four total tackles and four quarterback pressures. He registered no sacks.
Douglas' release will save the Jaguars considerable money. He would've earned $3.345 million in salary this season and his salary cap hit would've been $4.545 million, but is now reduced to $1.2 million of prorated bonus amortization. The remainder of Douglas' bonus amortization following this season, $3.6 million, will be charged to the Jaguars' 2005 salary cap.
"That's obviously fair game," Del Rio said of criticism for having signed Douglas. "People can take their shots. It's more important to do the right thing by our team now than it is to justify the decision," said Del Rio, who claimed the decision to release Douglas was made "with no concern for monetary figures.
"We feel confident we're going to affect the quarterback this year. I know the top three guys who've been talked about – Douglas, Brackens and Cordova – are no longer here," Del Rio said. "Ideally, you have an every-down Michael Strahan. That's not available to us right now. We'll use combinations of guys to get the job done."
Johnson was signed by the Jaguars last spring, when the effects of Crohn's Disease threatened backup quarterback David Garrard's future. Garrard has recovered fully from June surgery, however, and Quinn Gray clearly out-played Johnson in the preseason to claim the third quarterback job.
Redmond was a special teams coverage star for the Jaguars last year, but he had not developed as a wide receiver and the Jaguars have a glut of "gunners" among players who also provide depth at their respective positions.
Moreau was signed last week to help ease the Jaguars' injury situation at running back. It was understood then that signing Moreau was a stop-gap move.
Cordova suffered a major knee injury in training camp two weeks ago and was lost for the season. He was selected in the third round of this year's draft and was expected to be a pass-rush specialist. The release of Douglas would've clearly provided a lot of playing time for Cordova.
In other news, Del Rio said, "We're going to let (Josh) Scobee kick" in the preseason finale this Thursday night in New England. Scobee is attempting to become the third consecutive rookie kicker with whom the Jaguars have opened the regular season.
On the injury front, Fred Taylor (foot), Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala (foot), George Wrighster (foot) and Mike Compton (hand) will not practice today.