After watching tape of Saturday's game against the Miami Dolphins, Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio was impressed by the performance of his defensive line. The Jaguars secondary, however, needs more work.
"I thought the front was physical and stout. It looks like we're going to have a good front this season," Del Rio told reporters on Monday.
The Jaguars defensive line was judged to have played markedly better against the Dolphins than it did in the preseason opener in Philadelphia. It's no coincidence that defensive end Aaron Kampman and rookie defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, the prized offseason additions that are expected to dramatically improve the defense, played for the first time in the preseason.
Miami quarterback Chad Henne, however, torched the Jaguars for 151 yards and two touchdown passes in less than a half of work, and the Jaguars pass-defense has allowed 406 yards passing in the first half of the first two preseason games.
"There are some things we'll need to do a whole lot better. We're going to have to play better back there," Del Rio said of his secondary. "The tight end caught a ball on a drag route that should go for 10 yards max and it goes untouched. It's really basic stuff."
The hope is the play of the secondary will be improved by a pass-rush that was non-existent last season. That new and improved pass-rush, of course, is counting on Kampman and Alualu to provide the boost it needs.
Can Kampman and Alualu be difference-makers?
"I don't know. We'll see," Kampman said.
Kampman has been one of the best pass-rushers in the game for the past several years, but he was miscast as a linebacker in the Packers' 3-4 scheme last season, and his season came to an end when he underwent knee reconstruction on Dec. 4. Less than nine months removed from that surgery, Kampman is ready to increase his playing time in this Saturday's preseason game in Tampa, so he might be full go for the regular-season opener on Sept. 12.
"I started training camp real fast, doing everything. I had a little swelling so we backed off, but since then I've had no issues," Kampman said.
Is he fully recovered from the injury?
"Ask me that about halfway into the season," he said.
Last season, the Jaguars were last in the league in sacks with 14.
"That's not our goal. It'll be a lot higher than that. Every rush, you have a chance to get a sack. That's the mentality you have to have," Kampman added.
Rookie fifth-round draft choice Larry Hart is another player on whom the Jaguars are relying to provide a pass-rush. Hart is an undersized pass-rush specialist who's being cast in the mold of the Colts' Robert Mathis. Hart is getting a crash course on how to rush the passer from defensive line coach Joe Cullen.
"I guess he's seen something in me. He's on me all the time trying to pull something out of me. I can't understand everything he says. I just know I have to get better. I can hear him in my sleep: 'Larry, Larry.'" Hart said. "I feel like I'm making improvement. I'm not getting yelled at as much."
Hart added that his personal goal is for 8-10 sacks this season.
Another part of the Jaguars game that needs work is the running game, which has gained 68 yards in two games.
"We've elected to throw the ball a little bit. We recognize we'll have to be able to run the ball to be a good football team," Del Rio said.
Coach on McCown
"He was hurried a little more," Del Rio said when asked to provide a critique of backup quarterback Luke McCown's performance against Miami. "I would've liked to have seen him get rid of the ball on the grounding call. He overshot a guy."
Nwaneri on Nwaneri
"I feel like I've performed pretty well in the camp. There's some confidence I've won the position," Uche Nwaneri said when asked if he believes he's won the starting right guard job.
Nwaneri believes the running game will improve when the Jaguars settle on their starting five offensive linemen.
"That's when you move on. Those linemen have to know what the guy next to them is going to do," he said.