Jags Can't Be Afraid of Past

The Jaguars have swung and missed in the past with defensive ends Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves. Although those picks haven't seemed to work out, the Jaguars can't be afraid to address their need for a pass rusher in the draft.

When Joe Cullen was hired a year ago to be the Jaguars' defensive coordinator, he took the defensive line sign down outside the linemen's meeting room.

He had it replaced with a sign that said Rushmen.

He was trying to send a message that the team had to improve their rush. That was a major goal for the Jaguars when they entered the 2010 season.

They did that as they improved their sack total by 12, a figure that tied for fifth highest in the league in improving the rush.

They finished with 26 sacks after getting just 14 in 2009 and their 20.5 sack total by their defensive linemen was fifth highest in the NFL.

They also had three-plus sack games in five of their 16 games and had a season high six sacks against Cleveland.

That was the most they had in a game since they had seven in 2008.

Despite that improvement, it wasn't enough to get them in the playoffs and improving their pass rush remains a high priority.

The plus is that they had 21 sacks in six games. The downside is that they had only five in the other 10 games.

And when Aaron Kampman went down in midseason with his second torn ACL in as many years, the rush became somewhat anemic.

Although Kampman had only four sacks, he was credited with 30 quarterback pressures by the Jaguars. While teams tend to inflate their number of pressures, Kampman definitely made a difference.

Without him, the Jaguars had just two sacks in the final three games while going from 8-5 to 8-8 and missing the playoffs.

All this explains why there is so much speculation that the Jaguars will take a defensive end on the first round for the second time in four years.

The last time they did that in 2008, they traded up to get Derrick Harvey and that move didn't pan out. He was benched last year and appears to be a bust.

His benching and Kampman's injuries left Jeremy Mincey and rookie Austen Lane as the two starters. Mincey wound up leading the team with five sacks and he is a relentless player but is better as a part-time player. Lane didn't have a single sack.

So a defensive lineman will be tempting for the Jaguars on the first round even if Kampman returns because it is a deep position.

Among the candidates they could consider are Ryan Kerrigan, J.J. Watt, Cameron Jordan and Aldon Smith.

If Kampman returns and they get a rookie who can step in and make an immediate impact, it could have a dramatic impact on their rush.

Another difference is that head coach Jack Del Rio was stripped of the duty of calling the defensive signals by owner Wayne Weaver. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will handle that assignment.

Said Weaver, "I asked Jack to do something differently this year. I believe very strongly that it's hard for a head coach to be a coordinator and call the plays. I've asked Jack to take charge of game day the way a head coach has to do."

So the Jaguars are hoping an impact pass rusher and a new play-caller will upgrade their pass rush this year.

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