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Williams was the big piece of the puzzle


Marcus Stroud is expected to be the plum of the Jaguars' 2001 draft class, but Maurice Williams is the player who allowed Tom Coughlin a feeling of satisfaction at the conclusion of the first day of the NFL draft.

Williams, the Michigan offensive tackle, would seem to be the key to the Jaguars' first-day draft class. He could turn out to be the key to their whole draft.


Well, very simply, Williams addressed a desperate need at right tackle the Jaguars would've probably not been able to satisfy had Williams not been available to them in the second round. And the Jaguars did not expect Williams would be available.

"There were two guys who were close, but not quite the players (Williams is)," coach Tom Coughlin said of his offensive line options in the second round, other than Williams.

Most experts felt offensive line was the Jaguars' most desperate need. Coughlin didn't agree. He believed defensive muscle is what the Jaguars needed most, and he was convinced that if they didn't address that need with their first-round pick, they wouldn't be able to do so at all.

Coughlin believed he had a better chance of finding his offensive lineman in the second round. As it turned out, he was right.

"It solidified the early part of the draft," Coughlin said of the Williams pick.

The Jaguars passed on the highest-rated available player in the first round, Florida offensive tackle Kenyatta Walker. When the Jags passed on Walker, Tampa Bay immediately traded up to select Walker.

That's when the tension began to mount for the Jaguars. The rest of the first round and the early part of the second round was a pick-by-pick countdown to Williams.

Here's what the Jaguars accomplished with their four first-day-of-the-draft picks:

• Stroud's massive size should immediately make the Jaguars better against the run in, of course, the NFL's best run-the-ball division. Not coincidentally, the Browns, Bengals and Steelers drafted defensive linemen with their first-round picks. That means Eddie George, Jerome Bettis, Corey Dillon and Fred Taylor probably lost some rushing yards from their 2001 resumes.

• Williams has the size, athletic ability and big-school grooming to become a starter at right tackle in his rookie season. That would allow Zach Wiegert to settle in at his natural position of right guard.

• If Stroud and Williams become players of immediate impact, the Jaguars will have possibly fixed both lines.

• Westmoreland adds speed and athletic ability, but it's a reach to think he can have an immediate impact. His lack of size and experience would make it very difficult to play him alongside smallish second-year middle linebacker T.J. Slaughter this season.

• Boyd comes out of a disciplined Penn State program where he showed great leadership skills. He has the smarts to learn how to make the defensive calls from the free safety position, and could break into the lineup more quickly than should be necessary. Of course, Lake is coming off foot surgery that leaves his future in doubt.

"Because we were able to fill some position needs, I feel good about this first day of the draft," Coughlin said.

Vic Ketchman is the Senior Editor of Jaguars Inside Report, the official team newspaper of the Jacksonville Jaguars. One-year subscriptions may be purchased by calling 1-888-846-5247.

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