Jacksonville Jaguars Safety Spot Not So Safe
If reports coming out of Jacksonville Municipal Stadium are accurate, there is brewing concern over who will be the starting safety tandem when the 2009 season begins.
Brian Williams and Reggie Nelson were the opening day starters last year, and the expectation all along was that Nelson would continue in his role for the foreseeable future.
That may not be quite the certainty most thought, after Nelson struggled in his sophomore season, and those issues have continued through mini-camp and organized team activities.
According to media reports, the Jaguars were extremely impressed with the performance of free agent acquisition Sean Considine. When the Jaguars grabbed the former Philadelphia Eagle special teams ace, it was seen as an effort to bolster the depth of the defensive backfield.
Nobody expected Considine to make a strong push for a starting job, primarily because he had always been a depth guy for the Eagles. But, that is precisely what has happened, giving the Jaguars the luxury of being able to move Brian Williams back to corner back while they develop Derek Cox.
It could also provide the Jaguars with roster flexibility by allowing the team to move Williams in a trade if Cox continues to impress with his performance.
While the strong safety competition was heating up, the Jaguars were busy shopping for another guy to add to the mix.
When Detroit floated former second-round draft pick Gerald Alexander as a possible swap for Dennis Northcutt, the Jaguars did not hesitate to pull the trigger.
In the 2007 draft, the Jaguars loved Alexander. If Reggie Nelson had not fallen to them in the first round, Alexander would have been their next option. However, Nelson wound up in the Jaguars' prize basket, and Detroit grabbed Alexander.
Now, fast forward two years and the Jaguars are disappointed in their first pick in the 2007 draft, and they have acquired the guy they were targeting by trading a player who was at risk of being pushed out of his position by a rookie.
To advance this line of thought, the Jaguars have been quite happy with what they have seen from Alexander since he arrived in Jacksonville. The concerns surrounding his neck injury are a non-starter. He appears to be returning to the form he demonstrated during his rookie year when he registered more than 80 tackles along with a couple of sacks and interceptions.
If Alexander continues to impress and Nelson continues to struggle, the Jaguars could be forced to make another difficult decision. Whether the team would be inclined to make a move to part ways with Nelson remains to be seen, and there is certainly enough time for him to gain some level of redemption. But, the pressure is definitely on for the free safety as he enters his third season.
It was obvious that the Jaguars were not satisfied with the performance they got from the entire defensive secondary last season. With the addition of new talent through free agency, trade, and the draft, the Jaguars have set a tone that change is necessary.
In addition to the personnel adjustments, the Jaguars dumped their defensive back coach, Donnie Henderson. He became the fall guy for a unit that played inconsistently throughout the 2008 season.
His departure was part of a more sweeping movement to gut the defensive coaching staff in hopes of making a quick rebound in 2009.
The Jaguars hired Mel Tucker as the new defensive coordinator to replace Gregg Williams. In reality, Tucker has been brought in to fix the secondary. Jack Del Rio will be crafting the defensive scheme for the team in similar fashion to what he did initially with Mike Smith. Tucker may be calling the plays on game day, but the scheme will be pure Del Rio.
So, with all of the changes taking place, it should come as no surprise that yet another first-round draft pick might be on the cusp of seeing his role diminished. The team is focused on fixing those issues that caused a dramatic slip in 2008, and the free safety spot was an area of concern throughout the year.
If the trend continues, Gene Smith will have a little more work to do with his role as the chief house cleaner.
Reggie Nelson needs to either get with the program or prepare to be the next in a growing list of players who have the title "former Jaguar" attached to their name.
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