Del Rio, Harris, and Smith Attending Combine

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio and Jaguars vice president of player personnel James Harris head up the Jacksonville contingent attending this week's annual scouting combine in Indianapolis. Making his first trip to the annual event in his new position of Executive Director of College and Pro Personnel is Gene Smith.

Smith was promoted to his current position in January, replacing Charles Bailey, who had served for five years as Director of Pro Personnel. Bailey basically lost out in a power struggle within the Jaguars framework, which had found Del Rio and Smith on one side and Harris and Bailey as allies on the other front.

Publicly all parties had always maintained a positive approach and had indicated they were all working towards the same common goal. But insiders have known for some time that there was a division and that friction had arose on more than one occasion when it came time for a Jaguars free agent signing or in the college draft.

This week will find everyone working from the same script however as the Jaguars begin their evaluation of college material. Everyone knows the team is only two or three players away from being a serious contender to reach the Super Bowl. Whether those players are found in free agency beginning next week or in April's draft remains to be seen.

But the Jaguars will be active in both. They've shown in the past they are willing to gamble with some big names commanding some big bucks. A year ago they nabbed Baltimore Ravens starting right tackle Tony Pashos on the first day of free agency and signed him to a multi-million dollar deal. They inked disgruntled Cleveland Browns receiver Dennis Northcutt shortly thereafter.

Have they been successful on every move? Not hardly. Jaguars personnel get a sickening feeling when the names of Bryce Paup (1998) and Hugh Douglas (2003) are mentioned. Both players came in with big expectations after soaking the club for multi-year deals, only to fall flat and walk away with plenty of the team's money and little production to show for it.

What Del Rio, Harris and Smith observe in Indianapolis will determine how active the club is in free agency. There's no question the team needs defensive help, especially along the line and in the secondary. Using a draft pick to fill those needs isn't always the best way to go. The club picked safety Reggie Nelson from Florida with their first choice a year ago, and while he started every game, it was a learning process that still has a ways to go.

There's an abundance of defensive ends and cornerbacks in this year's draft and the best of the lot will be among the 335 draft prospects who are in Indianapolis. How fast of a 40-time, how agile they are in the cone drills and how well they come across in the team interview process may determine who becomes a Jaguar in April. If the team isn't comfortable that their desired player will be available to them at a certain position, look for them to fulfill that need in the free agent market starting next week.


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