Jaguars: Defensive Ends

In this series we will look at each position on the Jaguars, determine the talent and needs, and suggest changes. The next position group we are going to analyze is the Jaguars defensive ends.

The Jaguars position of greatest need is arguably at defensive end. The Jaguars front four couldn't sustain pressure all season and it finally caught up with them in the New England game when Tom Brady had all day and picked the secondary apart.

Starters -- LDE Bobby McCray, RDE Paul Spicer. Backups -- Reggie Hayward, Jeremy Mincey, Brent Hawkins, James Wyche.

Paul Spicer was the Jaguars defensive MVP in 2007 as he was clearly the Jaguars best defensive lineman. Spicer was the only Jaguar who could get any kind of consistent pressure on the quarterback, and drew double teams for most of the year. Spicer will be 33 years old before the beginning of the 2008 season.

    Contract status: Spicer is under contract through 2008. The team will likely wait and see if Spicer can duplicate his 2007 performance before offering him any kind of contract extension.

Bobby McCray was possibly the Jaguars biggest disappointment in 2007, as he was playing for a contract and almost completely disappeared. McCray registered all three of his sacks in the Jaguars final three games of the regular season, and was so much of a non-factor that he was made inactive for two games during the middle of the year.

    Contract status: McCray is an unrestricted free agent and it's not likely that the Jaguars will re-sign him. McCray has gone on record stating that $5 million/yr. would not be enough to keep him in Jacksonville.

Reggie Hayward spent 2007 battling his Achilles injury that cost him nearly the entire 2006 season. Hayward was missing the explosion that he had before the injury, and played like an average to below average defensive end, notching just 18 tackles and 3.5 sacks. It is unclear whether or not Hayward will return to his old form which earned him his big contract from the Jaguars.

    Contract status: Hayward is under contract through 2009. Hayward is due salaries of $3.5 million in 2008, and $5 million in 2009. The Jaguars will likely audition Hayward through training camp to see if he can recover from his injury and then make a decision on him. If he can't play up to his pre-2006 level, the team will likely part ways with him or ask him to take a pay cut.

Jeremy Mincey played in the final six games of the season and was fairly productive in limited snaps in the defensive end rotation. Mincey is a 24-year old with good size (6'3", 285 lbs.) and has some good upside. Mincey will likely get a chance to earn more playing time in 2008.

    Contract status: Mincey is under contract through 2008, and then will be a restricted free agent.

Brent Hawkins was drafted as a designated pass rusher, and the team hasn't received the return it was hoping out of him at this point. Hawkins plays only on passing downs and is too small to play against the run.

    Contract status: Hawkins is under contract through 2009.

James Wyche was active for the final seven games of the 2006 season and missed the entire 2007 season with a groin injury. Wyche has good size at 6'5", 275 lbs., and could be in the Jaguars plans for 2008.

    Contract status: Wyche is an exclusive rights free agent in 2008.

Are changes necessary? In a word, yes. The Jaguars need to upgrade the defensive end position with a premium pass rusher. They play in the same division as the Colts, who have a great passing game, and they're in the same conference as the undefeated Patriots, who have the best quarterback in the game. They need to manufacture more of a pass rush to beat those elite passing teams, and they will likely have to open the checkbook very wide to get a premium rush end.

Other free agent options who could be available: Mike Rucker, Justin Smith, Ebenezer Ekuban, Jared Allen, Marques Douglas, Bryant Young, Travis LaBoy, Antwan Odom, Terrell Suggs.

Who makes sense? Jared Allen makes the most sense in the world, but he will likely not get to free agency. Terrell Suggs would be the next best option, but it's likely that he won't hit the market either. Justin Smith and a healthy Mike Rucker would represent an immediate upgrade over the cast that they currently have.

Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of, and a regular syndicated contributor to, Sirius NFL Radio, MySpace Sports and Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.

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