Finding positives from Derrick Harvey's performance in Jacksonville's season-opening loss at Indianapolis is not an easy task—though (mercifully) not as difficult as finding photographic evidence that he did, in fact, take the field Sunday.
Amidst a slew of visuals from Getty Images and the Associated Press capturing Colts running backs Joseph Addai and Donald Brown, quarterback Peyton Manning, and some of Indianapolis' offensive linemen in action, Harvey seems to have been lost in the shuffle.
Which is fitting, considering his play when targeted by the Colts on outside runs.
Indianapolis discovered that Harvey's side was ripe for the picking in the second quarter, running at him on three plays—including a third down conversion inside the Jaguars' 10-yard line and the drive-capping touchdown.
As Harvey busied himself with winning individual battles against left tackle Charlie Johnson, the Colts hit Jacksonville for key gains time and again through his vacated gap.
For all the rushing yards allowed on his side, though, Harvey did flash improved pass rush technique and strength against Johnson.
He used rip moves effectively on several plays to turn the corner after getting a step on his blocker and collapsed Manning's pocket with occasional bull rushes.
With the exception of one first quarter run where Colts fullback Gijon Robinson bulldozed him out of the play, Harvey did a good job of keeping his blockers at arm's length.
Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker moved Harvey around in the game's first half, lining him up in standing and down stances and dropping him back into coverage frequently. Harvey provided another obstacle in Manning's line of vision as Tucker tried to exploit the All-Pro quarterback's history of struggles against disciplined zone schemes, but he played his shallow zone assignments conservatively.
Quentin Groves, who seemed more comfortable with the diverse responsibilities of the standing end in Tucker's defense, took over the lion's share of playing time in the second half as Harvey was benched for all but four plays over the final 30 minutes.
Harvey's best role model in Sunday's game, though, was Indianapolis defensive end Dwight Freeney, whose renowned spin move gave rookie tackle Eugene Monroe fits.
Granted, Harvey doesn't have the requisite combination of leverage, balance, and foot speed to dominate with that move. Few do.
But the biggest lesson from Freeney's clinic against the Jaguars was the usefulness of an inside move, both in rushing the passer and stopping the run. The threat of the move kept Monroe from kicking too far out, leaving the possibility of an edge rush open.
Using the spin, Freeney hit his assigned gap on runs even when starting out on Monroe's outside shoulder.
While Harvey consistently rounded the corner against Johnson with his speed and strong hands, he ran too wide to anchor against the run and lost precious seconds getting to Manning by taking a long outside path.
This coming Sunday, Jacksonville's home opener features a matchup against the Arizona Cardinals and their power running scheme. With end Reggie Hayward lost for the season to injury, the Jaguars will likely use more four-man fronts with Harvey at right end.
To help stall Arizona's ground game like the San Francisco 49ers did last week, Harvey has to do a better job of moving inside against blocks. An effective inside move would also give him multiple routes to Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner.
And if Warner goes down, Getty Images will have to get a picture of it.
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