All of a sudden, it's not a position of desperation.
"I never felt it was a desperate situation," defensive coordinator Mike Smith said of the defensive end position.
Smith, however, was in the minority. In fact, he may have been the only person who wasn't pushing panic buttons after the draft and free agency passed without the Jaguars making any dramatic DE acquisitions.
You remember Kenechi Udeze, don't you? He was going to be the Jaguars' first-round pick. Everybody had him penciled in at the Jaguars' spot in the first round. Udeze was going to solve the Jaguars' need for a stud defensive end for the next several years. Well, it didn't turn out that way, as the Jaguars passed on Udeze.
No stud, no problem; at least, for now.
The Jaguars are counting on a cast of candidates, from which Smith and head coach Jack Del Rio will apply a mix and match philosophy. Here's what the Jags have:
• A veteran of proven adequacy in Paul Spicer. No one is suggesting that Spicer is the next Richard Dent or Charles Haley, but he's a tough-minded effort guy who will hold up well on first and second down.
• Rob Meier is a solid number three tackle and end who is everything you want in a two-down defensive lineman. On third down, however, he's gotta come out, and that's where the other guys come in.
• Second-year man Brandon Green and rookie seventh-round pick Bobby McCray have been pleasant surprises in this camp. Though Green is smallish, he has every-downs potential. McCray, for now, is a pass-rusher only, though the Jaguars think that'll change after a year in the offseason conditioning program.
• Akin Ayodele and Jorge Cordova are linebackers who will be used as hand-on-the-ground pass-rushers from the defensive end position.
• Hugh Douglas is the Jaguars' one true every-downs defensive end. If Douglas gives the Jaguars what they signed him to do, the mix-and-match philosophy may work fine. If Douglas bombs again this year, well, then the situation at defensive end will become desperate, again.
"We have a number of options of who can play for us on third down," Smith said, referring to the need for a pass-rusher at left end.
That's Smith's number one concern: a third-down pass-rush. He's got plenty of two-down guys. Who's going to sack the quarterback?
"He'll be in our mix, as to who plays on third down," Smith said of Green.
The former sixth-round pick from Rice has always been an over-achiever. That's why you go to Rice. And though the Jaguars' media guide says Green is 6-3, 264, your eyes tell you that's an exaggeration.
But here's the plain truth: Green plays a position that is increasingly being downgraded in size. Speed, tenacity and instinct have never been more important at defensive end. And maybe most important of all is the need to have a defensive coordinator who knows when to plug a player in, and when to pull his plug out.
"In our system it's not bad," Green says of his size. "I'm about 270 right now. I don't feel like I get pushed around. Our defense isn't a grab-and-hold defense. It's an aggressive, attacking style of defense."
Last summer, Green was more than holding his own when he suffered a knee injury. The knee never fully recovered and he was placed on the injured reserve list in week three of the regular season.
"It's an age-old quote but I'm just trying to do whatever it takes to get on the field," Green said. "If you produce, you're going to stay out there."
In the Jaguars' preseason opener in Miami, Green was impressive. He rushed the passer, tipped a pass.
"I did all right. I'd like to get a couple of sacks instead of pressures," he said.
He'll have another chance this Friday night, against Tampa Bay, as the Jaguars' plan for what to do at the left defensive end position is further revealed.