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Pearson could settle offensive line


The selection of Florida left offensive tackle Mike Pearson in the second round addressed the Jaguars' critical need to replace the franchise's first-ever draft choice, Tony Boselli, who left the team in this past winter's expansion draft.

"We've had our eye on this particular player. It's a very good pick for us. He's an outstanding pass-blocker. I think he'll come around in the (run-blocking) phase," coach Tom Coughlin told reporters following the Pearson choice.

Pearson, 6-6, 304, was an easy pick for the Jaguars, who had waited anxiously as the first round turned into the early second frame and Pearson continued to fall. It's believed the reason for Pearson's fall from a projected early first-round pick to an early second-round choice was the result of a strength deficiency. The Jaguars believe Pearson will remedy that situation in the team's weight room.

With Pearson in the fold, the Jaguars' offensive line immediately began to take shape. Pearson may enable Maurice Williams, last year's second-round pick, to remain at right tackle. Zach Wiegert may step in at left guard, which would allow Brad Meester to move to center, his natural position. The Pearson pick was a classic needs selection that may settle four spots on the Jaguars' offensive line.

"For now, Mo would stay at right tackle," Coughlin said of Williams. "We'll see how all of this shakes out as we go through mini-camp.

"He was, without a doubt, the best quality for this pick," Coughlin said, referring to the needs vs. best available player debate. In the case of Pearson, Coughlin clearly satisfied both philosophies, but the Jaguars coach was not about to back down from his needs-first approach to drafting.

"Seventy-eight percent of that first round was done by need. That's what's going on in the NFL," Coughlin said.

The Jaguars' first-round selection, John Henderson, was rated below Tennessee defensive tackle mate Albert Haynesworth by most draftniks. Coughlin told reporters that Henderson's character qualities made him more attractive.

"John Henderson had enough courage that he would go up to certain players and call them out. I do know the other players respected that in him," said Coughlin, who confessed to focusing on an improved spirit within his team's locker room.

"That's part of it, and our huge disappointment in our first-round pick of a couple of years ago," Coughlin said, referring to wide receiver R. Jay Soward, who has spent most of his two-year career on suspension for substance abuse. Soward, of course, has already been suspended for the entire 2002 season.

"Character, toughness, competitiveness, pride, self-starters; that's one of the major themes," Coughlin said.

Pearson complies with the character push. The Florida star also excelled in the classroom. "The intangibles are outstanding. He played an awful lot of big games … at a school that made its living throwing the ball. We lost Tony (Boselli); we felt we needed to do something about it," Coughlin said.

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