CONFERENCE CALL WITH P ADAM PODLESH - NFL DRAFT ROUND FOUR - SUNDAY, APRIL 29, 2007
Jaguars Draft: A "Special" Focus
The Jaguars draft may seem peculiar to a lot of people regarding some of the things they did. Passing on Brady Quinn in round one (twice), taking a D-I AA linebacker in round two, taking a punter in round four, and then taking a plethora of "tacklers" on day two. But, if you take a closer look at some of the descriptions of the players that were drafted or signed as free agents, it's clear the Jaguars went into day two with a plan.
In 2006, the Jaguars special teams was one of the worst in the NFL. They had only 20 punts downed inside the 20 (San Diego was tops in the league at 35), they tied for the league lead with two punt returns allowed for touchdowns, allowed nearly 12 yards per punt return, and were dead last in the NFL in net punt average. Pete Rodriguez, the Jaguars special teams coach was subsequently fired and former Atlanta Falcons coach Joe DeCamillis was hired. The Jaguars plan to bolster the special teams was clearly apparent at pick 101, when they selected punter Adam Podlesh from Maryland , and Jack Del Rio immediately named him the starter punter, signaling the end of Chris Hanson's punting career in Jacksonville. Many people don't believe in drafting a punter early, but Coach DeCamillis emphasized the need for good directional punting when he was introduced, and that is Adam Podlesh's specialty. In his college career, Podlesh had almost 40% of his punts downed inside the 20 (compared to Hanson's 28% in 2006), which indicates his superb directional kick ability.
Throughout day two of the draft, it was clear the Jaguars wanted to beef up their special teams unit. In round two they selected Justin Durant of Hampton, who will come in right away and should be a special team's star. In round four, they selected "tweener" Brian Smith of Missouri who should also be a special teams contributer. In round five they stole Josh Gattis, an expected 1st day pick, who should be an instant impact player on special teams like safety Gerald Sensabaugh was in his rookie season. Linebacker Chad Nkang was taken in round seven, and while he is tiny for a linebacker in the NFL, he is the perfect size for a special team's gunner at 5'11", 220 lbs. Wide receiver John Broussard from San Jose State, taken in Round 7, has a legit shot to make the roster on his speed alone (reportedly 4.34 in the 40 yard dash), and can contribute as a kick returner. Coupled with these picks, the Jaguars first round pick, Reggie Nelson could also have a big impact on special teams, as he blocked an astounding 7 kicks in his short college career at Florida.
It certainly appeared that improving one of the worst special teams units in the NFL was a major priority this offseason, and the Jaguars followed that vision through on draft weekend. It's a rarity that pretty much each and every draft choice can be a special teams contributer, and it looks like that will be the case for the Jaguars. In addition to the players drafted, the Jaguars signed eight undrafted free agent rookies, and it is likely that one or two of them may land themselves on the final roster, likely due to a great special teams contribution.
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