Jaguars general manager Gene Smith decided that bigger school players were the way to go in the 2012 draft, but he is still getting heat over the Bryan Anger selection in the third round....Also, Terrance Knighton addresses the media and the Jaguars draft picks have some interesting story-lines.
That limb that a number of Jaguars fans feel general manager Gene Smith is hanging on to, may have developed another crack in the eyes of some fans. Smith was already under scrutiny by some Jaguars faithful for his persistence in drafting non-BCS players in his first two years as general manager of the club.
Other than first-round picks, Tyson Alualu (California) in 2010 and Blaine Gabbert (Missouri) last year, all nine of the other picks those two years were players who played for a non-BCS school. They included the likes of schools such as Central Arkansas, James Madison, Mount Union, Lehigh and Middle Tennessee State. Two of the nine are no longer with the team and only one of the nine - guard Will Rackley of Lehigh, a third-round pick last year, has become a starter.
For the most part, Smith stayed away from the non-BCS schools this year, taking just two players - fifth-round pick, linebacker Brandon Marshall of Nevada and seventh-round pick, defensive tackle Jeris Pendleton of Ashland (Ohio).
But Smith did annoy a good number of fans when he selected California punter Bryan Anger in the third round, the 70th player taken overall. It was the highest a punter had gone in the draft since 1995 when the Chicago Bears took Todd Sauerbrun in the second round.
"He's a good athlete with a live leg. He's got the right mind for the position and we felt like the advantage in field position certainly is an asset to our defense," Smith said in defending his selection of a punter so high in the draft. "Having done Shane Lechler when he came out of college, this guy has comparable leg strength. He's got tremendous history as a punter at Cal."
--Jaguars defensive tackle Terrence Knighton made his first public appearance and comments since an April 8 altercation at a local nightclub resulted in his getting hit in the eye with a liquor bottle. Knighton underwent emergency surgery hours later to repair damage to his cornea.
Original reports had the third-year pro out for all of the Jaguars offseason workouts, with a possible return just before the start of training camp. But Knighton indicated it may be sooner than that.
He spoke at a track meet while sitting in the stands to the local CBS affiliate in town, the Jaguars official TV outlet. However he wouldn't let the cameras take a close-in shot of his eye that was protected by dark sun glasses.
"I'm doing fine," he said, displaying his infectious smile that he's become known for. "I'm hoping to be back sooner than the original timetable. I'd like to think I can get back in time to do some of the offseason activities with the rest of the team."
Those OTA sessions end around the middle of June, about five weeks before the team is scheduled to report back for the start of training camp.
--With veteran placekicker Josh Scobee yet to sign the one-year agreement as the team's franchise player, the Jaguars were in the market to find a backup placekicker, at least for the offseason workouts until Scobee does agree to sign the franchise agreement or reaches a deal with the Jaguars for a new contract.
Jacksonville is bound to receive attention, likely on an international basis, for the player it signed to fill in for Scobee. He's Chinese kicker Long Ding who first played American football in the United States in 2007 as a member of the IFAF/USA Football International Student Program.
Long, who hails from Qing Dao, was first noticed when he attended the NFL regional combine in New York and later was invited to the NFL Super Regional Combine in Detroit.
He enjoyed a stellar career at Norwich University where he was twice named Eastern Collegiate Football Conference special teams Player of the Year. He concluded his Norwich University career by converting 11 consecutive field-goal attempts and 14 straight extra points. He was the team's leading scorer with 73 points and was the league leader in field goals made and for accuracy.
Long was scheduled to make his first appearance in a Jacksonville uniform this weekend when he participates in the team's rookie minicamp.
--The selection of Jeris Pendleton in the seventh round may be an even bigger gamble than taking Anger in the third round. Pendleton is 28 years old and after playing two years at a small junior college, he transferred to Marshall for his final two years. Coming out of high school 10 years ago, he was set to enroll at Michigan State. But he elected to get a full-time job with the pending arrival of his first son, and didn't enroll in college until he was 24.
"He's a very unique story," general manager Gene Smith said of the 6-2, 322-pound defensive tackle.
With the team's starting defensive tackles Tyson Alualu (knee surgery) and Terrence Knighton (recent eye surgery) both coming off surgical procedures in the offseason, the Jaguars felt they needed to have more depth at the position. Working for Pendleton is that he's more advanced maturity-wise at age 28 and that he ran the 40 in 4.9. Working against him is that the competition he faced in college won't be anything like what he'll soon see in the NFL.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "If you believe in what you see and how to construct a team, you pick the players that can help the Jaguars win a championship and whatever anyone else says doesn't matter." - Jaguars director of player personnel Terry McDonough defending the team's pick to take punter Bryan Anger in the third round, the 70th overall player taken in last week's draft.