While the Jaguars further solidified their defense this offseason, their offense took a major hit when they lost a potential Hall of Fame nominee.
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The most significant offseason occurrence for the Jaguars was the retirement of wide receiver Jimmy Smith. Ranked seventh in NFL history for receptions, Smith retired at the top of his game, leading the Jags with 70 receptions for 1,023 yards last season.
Smith's departure leaves a major void at the wide receiver position with former Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones taking over the role as the number one receiver. Jones had 36 receptions for 432 yards his rookie season, but has a lot to learn at the wide receiver position.
Third year receiver Ernest Wilford, who stepped in for Reggie Williams last season after he suffered a concussion, was expected to be the Jaguars' number two receiver. He caught a team-leading seven touchdowns last year and was hoping to build on his breakout season in 2006. But so far during offseason workouts, Williams is back working with the first team and Wilford has been relegated to the second team. The Jaguars did add some depth at wide receiver by bringing back veteran Troy Edwards and ex-Raven Randy Hymes to battle for a spot on the roster.
The Jaguars also beefed up their offensive line, signing free agent offensive tackles Mike Williams and Stockar McDougle who were both highly touted out of college, but have failed to live up to their expectations in the NFL.
Already boasting one of the best secondaries in the NFL, the Jaguars upgraded their defensive backfield by signing cornerback Brian Williams, who will step in as the starter opposite Rashean Mathis.
2006 DRAFT ANALYSIS
Round 1, Pick 28 – TE Marcedes Lewis, UCLA
Jaguars' tight end Kyle Brady isn't getting any younger. Now 34 years old and entering his 12th NFL season, Brady is ready to pass the torch. He now has a suitor in Lewis, who will instantly contribute to the Jaguars offense.
With the departure of Smith, Lewis will help jump-start the Jaguars passing game with his top-notch route running and receiving capabilities. Lewis was an All-American last season with UCLA, hauling in 58 receptions for 741 yards.
Lewis is an ideal fit and will take some pressure off of Jacksonville's wide receivers. The Jaguars may use Lewis in the slot at times due to his speed and hands.
Round 2, pick 60 – RB Maurice Drew, UCLA
When Fred Taylor is healthy he is one of the best running backs in the NFL. The problem is, Taylor has started all 16 games in only two of eight seasons. Taking Drew in the second round provides the Jaguars with their potential running back of the future and an insurance policy for the oft-injured Taylor.
Drew is a game-breaker with 4.4 speed and a knack for making big plays. If Taylor stays healthy, Drew could be an ideal third-down back with his receiving ability—he caught 31 passes last year for an average of 14.6 yards a catch.
Aside from contributing offensively, Drew should have an instant impact on the Jaguars special teams as a punt and/or kick returner with his shifty running style.
Round 3, pick 80 – OLB Clint Ingram, Oklahoma
The Jaguars traded up with the Dallas Cowboys to secure the 80th pick to select Ingram. The outside linebacker position was the only glaring need for the Jaguars' defense and with Ingram; they added an aggressive, highly skilled player who could potentially play weak or strong side linebacker.
Ingram refined his coverage skills his senior year at Oklahoma, deflecting four passes and intercepting five. He was selected to the All-Big 12 team in 2005.
Although newly acquired OLB Nick Greisen will likely start opposite OLB Daryl Smith, Ingram's athletic ability and nose for the ball should earn him some playing time in 2006.
Round 5, pick 160 – DE Brent Hawkins, Illinois State
Round 7, pick 213 – DE James Wyche, Syracuse
Hawkins fits the mold of the Colts' Robert Mathis. He is significantly undersized at his position (6-2, 240) and many experts pegged him as an NFL linebacker. Perhaps like Mathis, he will prove them wrong. ColtPower's Ed Thompson spoke with Hawkins this offseason shortly after his pre-draft visit with the Colts.
Wyche was a constant contributor during his career at Syracuse and has ideal speed and height for a defensive end. However, he will need to increase his strength and physicality to succeed in the NFL.