One of the biggest concerns about the 6'3", 259 lb. rookie is if he will be able to be an every downs defensive end at the NFL level. Many draft experts saw Groves as a better fit in a 3-4 scheme as an outside linebacker, but the value of Groves was too great to pass on in round two for the Jaguars, so they decided to trade up and acquire the former Auburn University star.
The major question mark about Groves game and his chances of being a full-time defensive end were evident in the Jaguars preseason opener against Atlanta. The Falcons repeatedly rushed the ball to Groves side, and he was mostly a non-factor in slowing down the run. It was his first professional game, so nobody expected him to be dominant, but with the Jaguars lack of depth at his defensive end position, Groves may be forced into more action this season than previously imagined.
"We're training him (Groves) to be an every down player, and knowing that we're going to utilize him in things that he's going to be best at," said coach Del Rio. "We want him to know that this is what it takes to play defensive end all the time, and this is some of the dirty work, the tough sledding work that you have to get in. To get dirty with the tackle, the tight end, the combination blocks, and we know right now he's going to struggle at that. We don't want him to never be in that situation and not work on it. We want to develop a complete football player."
The good news after the Jaguars preseason opener regarding Groves is that he has undeniable athleticism. Groves made four tackles including one in the backfield, and he registered half a sack. Perhaps Groves most impressive play came on a 47-yard completion on a screen pass from Matt Ryan to Jason Snelling. Groves was seemingly completely out of the play and he showed unbelievable speed for a big man to chase down the Falcons running back at the two-yard line. Most players at his position would've given up or never have been able to catch an NFL back.
Del Rio had positive things to say about his second-round pick—
"He's been great for us, he's working hard, and he's doing a lot on special teams, doing a lot on defense, he's working at it. He is going to be naturally capable of doing some things that we covet. He can get off the edge, he can close. When he gets a step on the tackle, it's over. We think he's got a great finishing gear. We're going to put him in position to get after the edge of offenses and disrupt things for us. He's stronger than people think. He did rip off 30 at the combine, you don't throw up those kind of numbers without having some strength. He's obviously a young guy and he needs some work and refinement, but we'll work on that. He brings the speed we're coveting."
Groves has a special opportunity to make a mark in preseason and win over legions of Jaguars fans, as first-round pick Derrick Harvey is still holding out.
"The time he's (Harvey) missing is valuable time," said Jack Del Rio. "The fact is the team's going to be fair and we have been and that's where we are. It's not like holding out and holding your breath is going to change anything. It really doesn't make any sense for him not to be here and hopefully he'll come to that conclusion and get in soon."
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.
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