As the Eagles prepare for their first preseason game with the Jacksonville Jaguars, I had the chance to speak with Michael Corrao over at JacksonvilleJaguarsBlog.com. He answered a number of questions for us, and I’d like to thank him for taking the time out to speak with me. Check out the interview below.
Also, I answered a number of questions for him, so make sure to check it out here.
BirdsFan.com: The Jaguars were able to have a top 10 draft pick this year. Tell us where you thought the teams biggest need was going into the Draft, who you expected them to take, and your thoughts on their selection of Tyson Alualu.
JacksonvilleJaguarsBlog.com: Going into the draft, the consensus was that the Jaguars desperately needed a disruptive defensive lineman who could apply pressure on the opposing quarterback. Fortunately, this past draft was loaded with talented defensive lineman. However, I did not expect Gene Smith (Jaguars GM) to take a defensive tackle with the 10th overall selection. Rumor was that Smith was actively looking for a trade partner to move down and acquire more picks. Unfortunately, Smith only received one low-ball offer from an unknown team.
Stuck with the 10th pick, I assumed Smith was ready to take one of the top DE’s in Brandon Graham, Jason Pierre-Paul, or Derrick Morgan. Safety Earl Thomas was also scouted heavily by the Jaguars leading up to the draft.
When Roger Goodell announced Tyson Alualu was the pick, I grinned. Gene Smith must know something I don’t, I thought at the time. After watching some highlight clips of the guy, I started liking the selection more and more. And so far, he’s done nothing but impress the coaches and fans.
BF: After selecting 10th overall, the Jags had five other picks, but all were in the third round or later. Have any of these picks been impressive in training camp so far and do any of them have a chance of making the final roster?
JBB: The Jaguars 3rd round pick, D’Anthony Smith, a defensive end out of Louisiana Tech, is most likely going to miss this season with an ankle injury he suffered a day ago. It’s not fun to see a guy like that go down so early on, but the defensive line as a whole has been impressive in training camp which makes up for the loss.
Both 5th round picks were used on defensive ends Larry Hart and Austen Lane. Gene Smith and Jack Del Rio envision Hart as a Robert Mathis clone—an undersized pass rusher who can pressure the quarterback. Hart has shown great speed off the edge in TC so far, but needs to work on his run-stopping game. Lane is a tremendously-sized guy, standing at 6′7″, but what’s amazing about him is his quickness off the edge despite his size.
The last two selections the Jaguars made were on return specialists. Deji Karim is a smallish running back who was drafted for his big play ability in the return game but also looks good running the ball between and outside the tackles. Scotty McGee was known as an electrifying return man in college and now will most likely handle the punt returner duties.
BF: Looking back to the 2009-10 season, where would you say the Jaguars biggest weakness was offensively and what have they done to improve upon it? How about defensively?
JBB: The Jaguars were not good up front on either side of the football in 2009. The offensive line was a work in progress going into the season, with two new tackles and two guards coming back from injury. The only bright spot on the defensive line was run-stuffer Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton, who also flashed some pass rushing ability.
However, it didn’t make up for the league-low 14 sacks the defense had. Gene Smith made it a priority during the offseason to fix the defensive line, bringing in veteran DE Aaron Kampman and the rookies mentioned above. A new defensive line coach, Joe Cullen, was hired also, which may prove to be one of the best moves the Jaguars made all offseason. Every player has raved about Cullen and the passion he brings every day.
BF: From an outsider’s perspective, what are your thoughts on the Donovan McNabb trade and how do you think Kevin Kolb will perform in 2010?
JBB: It made sense for the Eagles to move on. McNabb was a great player for a long time, but the Eagles had a younger, cheaper quarterback with a higher ceiling waiting in the wings.
Kolb will most likely experience some growing pains as he leads the Eagles in 2010. Whether he learns from his mistakes or not, we will soon find out. I think he’ll be able to put together some nice games, but I think the Eagles will fall short of the playoffs with Kolb at the helm for his first season.
BF: In a matchup with the Eagles, where do you think the Jaguars will have an advantage offensively? Defensively?
JBB: I think the Jaguars have an advantage at the quarterback and running back positions on offense. David Garrard beats out Kevin Kolb purely based on experience. I think Maurice Jones-Drew, complemented by an elusive Rashad Jennings, is as good as any running back duo in the NFL. On defense, the Eagles may be better at every position besides Linebacker.
BF: Thus far in camp, who are some of those players that we may not know that are really turning heads?
JBB: Ko Quaye, an undrafted DT the Jaguars picked up this offseason has looked real good so far. Vic Kethman (senior editor of Jaguars.com) has been raving about him since the start of TC. Nate Hughes, a WR who’s been with the Jaguars for a couple of years, is a young speedster who has shown a pretty good set of hands. He may steal a roster spot from veteran Troy Williamson.
BF: I’d say that David Garrard has been a pretty average quarterback thus far in his career. Do you expect him to elevate his game in 2010 or will we see more of the same?
JBB: We may see some progress in how quickly Garrard scans the field and chooses a target, but I’m expecting more of the same. It’s not necessarily a bad thing as Garrard has proven to be effective when he has a solid O-Line in front of him and a great running game (see 2007).
BF: Maurice Jones-Drew has emerged as one of the leagues best running backs. How has he looked in camp so far and should we expect him to run wild in 2010?
JBB: Jones-Drew has looked tremendous in training camp so far and may be even better this season. He’s added a few new moves to his running repertoire, including a nasty cutback that could be breaking many ankles this season.
If you own the first pick in your fantasy football league, don’t buy into the Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson hype. I’d take MJD. It’s also funny to note that MJD drafts himself every year in his fantasy football league, and he’s serious about it, so you know he’s running hard each week.
BF: In what areas may the Eagles have the upper hand on offense? Defense?
JBB: Wide Receiver for sure. The Eagles seem to be stacked at that position this season. Offensive Line may go to the Eagles at this point as well. On defense, the Eagles clearly have an advantage on the defensive line and in the secondary. I’m excited to see how well Brandon Graham performs opposite of Trent Cole this season.
BF: Aaron Kampman was a big offseason addition for the Jaguars. Give us your thoughts on the pickup and the impact it will have for the Jags defense.
JJB: He’s been a great pickup. He’s been at the facility every day, working hard and leading by example. The injury that ended his season last year has seemingly disappeared. He’s got a quick first step and can stop the run. He adds a great veteran presence to a young defensive line that needs one after the departure of John Henderson.
BF: Give me a score prediction.
JJB: The Jaguars usually have success against the Eagles, so I’ll predict the Jaguars will take this one 24-20.