Jaguars Positional Analysis: Secondary

In 2006, the Jaguars secondary was probably the most talented group in team history, as they allowed just 12 passing touchdowns, the second lowest amount in the NFL behind New England. Although their stats were impressive, the secondary wasn't immune to the injury bug as strong safety and spiritual leader Donovin Darius missed the final six games due to a broken leg.

The MVP of the secondary, and possibly the entire team was Rashean Mathis who earned first team All-Pro honors, as well as his first trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. Opposite Mathis was 2005's big free agent acquisition, Brian Williams. Although Williams numbers were modest, 55 tackles, one interception, nine passes defensed, Williams brought a physical style of play to the cornerback position, and any questions about his value were answered in the one game that he missed, a 27-24 loss at Buffalo in which the entire secondary was beaten badly in coverage, seemingly all day long. The Jaguars secondary maintained the bend but don't break mentality, and like the rest of the defense, they were very successful in '06 despite the teams' record.

The biggest strength of the Jaguars secondary in '06 was Rashean Mathis. Mathis is the best cover corner in the NFL not named Champ Bailey. Mathis routinely takes on some of the NFL's finest receivers, and gets beat rarely. Brian Williams, playing opposite Mathis is a very good cover man in his own right, but a step below Mathis, which forces much more action to his side. Williams plays the run extremely well, and is a good tackler. When healthy, Donovin Darius is a punishing hitter in the secondary. He forces opposing receivers to locate him before every snap. Gerald Sensabaugh has been the backup to Darius for the last two seasons, and will now likely move over to the free safety position. Sensabaugh has very good ball skills, can deliver big hits, and has been improving each year. Scott Starksis a big time athlete playing the nickel position, and in time will likely be a full time starter at cornerback for some NFL team.

Probably the biggest weakness in the Jaguars secondary for 2006 was the abundance of missed turnover opportunities. The recently departed Deon Grant, seemingly dropped at least one interception that hit him in the hands each and every game. Donovin Darius also appeared to have stone hands on many occasions in 2006. The Jaguars secondary forced just three fumbles in 2006, and when you combine that with all the dropped interceptions, the team simply gave opponents too many opportunities to beat them. Another problem the secondary had was in deep coverage. The safeties seemed to take bad angles in deep coverage which gave up some unnecessary big plays.

Overall 2006 season grade: B-
Although the secondary didn't force a lot of turnovers, they limited opponents big plays overall. The pass rush wasn't what it should've been last year due to the rash of injuries, so the job of the secondary was made much more difficult. Mathis and Williams shined, despite having to cover for five or six seconds or longer, on many occasions. With the return of a good pass rush in '07, the secondary should be top notch.

Are changes necessary?
Yes they are. Donovin Darius will be 32 years old at the start of the '07 season, and his best days are clearly behind him. Darius has missed 21 games over the last two seasons, and when you combine that with his age, those aren't favorable numbers for job security. At this point, Sensabaugh is probably a better safety, and he is still playing under his rookie contract. I believe that the Jaguars need to draft a safety on the first day to team up with Gerald Sensabaugh, in case Darius isn't the same player that he was before the injuries.

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