Jaguars News | Jacksonville Jaguars -

No need for name-calling


There's no denying the obvious. Marlon McCree knows his future could include a position switch. But that may be in name only.

McCree had a career year last season. His six interceptions tied a team single-season record and, by all appearances, McCree established himself as the Jaguars' long-term starting free safety.

But the second pick of the first draft in this new era of Jaguars football was spent on safety Rashean Mathis and, all of a sudden, McCree had to wonder what the future holds for him in Jacksonville.

Most believe McCree will make the move to strong safety, where veteran Donovin Darius was hit with a "franchise" designation that will cost the team a whopping $3 million for Darius' services this season. Most question whether the Jaguars will be willing to spend that kind of money again next year.

"I played linebacker in college so I like being around the ball. I like blitzing. I like mixing it up and that's what the strong safety does more than the free safety," McCree said on a day when Darius did not participate and McCree was moved into the void at strong safety.

Mathis was an interceptions machine at Bethune-Cookman. He has the natural athletic ability and ball instincts to be the featured player of this new era in Jaguars defense. All indications are Mathis will not be denied. McCree knows that.

"(He's) a great athlete; very fast, explosive. He just needs to learn the system," McCree said.

But before you think Mathis is destined to force McCree out of a job, consider the fact that in the contemporary game the terms free safety and strong safety are just words. There's no need for the distinction.

By contrast, in the "old game" the strong safety was a strong run-support guy who was big enough and physical enough to mix it up with the tight end. The free safety was a centerfielder type who was three parts instinct and one part muscle.

Not now.

"All of our safeties -- the way we do things -- have to be able to play strong and free. They're going to be put in those situations because of the way the offenses change their formations," Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Smith said.

Contemporary offenses are looking for safeties who can be exploited; especially the guy who's good against the run but struggles in coverage. Offensive coordinators will reach into their bag of formations to find one that isolates a wide receiver on that particular safety.

"The days of two backs and a tight end in a normal displaced area; we don't see that quite as often. The offensive coordinators are using the entire field. Even though we call our safeties strong and free, they have to be interchangeable," Smith said.

McCree has shown Smith and head coach Jack Del Rio the ability to be a modern-age safety. His pass-defense and run-support skills are balanced.

"Marlon is having a very good camp. I think he's improved 10-fold from the first day we got here. He's in competition with Rashean. We're trying to have almost every position on defense open to competition," Smith added.

Whatever statement McCree makes in the way of his performance this season, it will probably speak loudest next season, when the Jaguars will be forced to make a decision on Darius.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content