Legendary pass rusher Lawrence Taylor's greatest contribution to the New York Giants' championship defenses in the '80s and '90s wasn't any of the 142 times he sacked an opposing quarterback. That number represents production—the law of averages over 13 seasons of dominance as an attacking linebacker.
L.T. was great because his opponents feared him on every play.
In his NFL-Lawrence/dp/1590710827" target="_blank">autobiography, one of Taylor's anecdotes shows the effect he could have on an offense.
"After a few years of me knocking him on his tush, [Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron] Jaworski was getting spooked," L.T. recalls.
"One play, he looked out at the defense and yelled, 'Where's 56?!'"
That state of panic, more than any one successful play, is the calling card of an impact defensive player. He's the offense's focus and the defense's spearhead, and he must be accounted for.
In April of 2008, the Jacksonville Jaguars traded up aggressively in the draft for the chance to pick Florida defensive end Derrick Harvey, a long-armed, explosive athlete with the quickest first step of any end in that rookie class. They expected Harvey to complete a defense that seemed to have every piece except an ace pass rusher.
One year later—after a 33-day holdout cost Harvey his first-year training camp and most of the 2008 preseason, leading to an underwhelming 3.5-sack rookie campaign—the Jaguars have yet to unleash the full potential of their first-round prospect.
This season, with contract distractions a distant memory, both team and player are certainly trying.
Early in the offseason, Harvey committed to pack 10 pounds onto his playing weight from last year. At 6'5" and 281 pounds, he should hold up better against runs instead of being a pass-rush specialist—and, athlete that he is, Harvey hasn't looked a step slower at that weight this preseason.
Coming off a training camp where head coach Jack Del Rio considered him one of the team's top performers, the Jaguars are using Harvey in a variety of roles. In this year's exhibition games he lined up at both ends of Jacksonville's four-man front, as an end in three-man fronts, and standing up as an outside linebacker.
The idea, clearly, is to let Harvey loose from multiple positions—to have opponents searching pre-snap for Jacksonville's most talented pass-rushing threat: "Where's 91?!"
Derrick Harvey, more than any other Jaguar, is crucial to the franchise's present and future success. He represents, in a real sense, the four draft picks traded to acquire him. Beyond that, though, Harvey is Jacksonville's commitment to attacking the NFL's top quarterbacks and a perfect example of the Jaguars' affinity for natural athletes.
As much as there exists such a thing as "Jaguar football," Harvey has the aggressive mindset and physical potential to play it.
Little is expected of Jacksonville entering the 2009 regular season, but the Jaguars have a star in the making who could help their eventual return to prominence with a breakout campaign. To track that progress on any given play, one has only to ask: "Where's 91?"
Week by week, this column will watch and answer.