JagNation Training Camp Preview: DE

If the Jaguars defense has any question marks, it is probably at defensive end. Each of the defensive ends on the current roster has some sort of issue, whether it is health, age, size, or inexperience. Although the Jaguars defensive ends played fairly well in '06, they weren't able to get consistent pressure on the quarterback, especially late in the year. More on each defensive end HERE:


Reggie Hayward
Reggie Hayward was signed by the Jaguars as a free agent prior to the '05 season as a pass rush specialist, who can also play every down. Hayward had averaged over nine sacks per season since becoming a full time starter before last season's ruptured Achilles tendon, that caused him to miss 15 games.

Strengths:
Hayward is a proven pass rusher. He can get to the quarterback and cause havoc. Hayward is also solid against the run.

Weaknesses:
Health. Hayward ruptured his Achilles in last season's opener, and nobody knows for sure if Hayward will be able to play this season at a high level, or at all.

Best case/Worst case scenarios:
Hayward's best case scenario is that he is healthy enough to play in '07, and gives the defensive line the pass rusher that it so desperately needs. Worst case scenario is that Hayward takes two years to recover from that injury, like most, and is inactive for the season.


Paul Spicer
Paul Spicer is a veteran defensive end that signed with the Jaguars back in 2000, after being released by the Detroit Lions. It took Spicer four years to win a starting job with the Jaguars after being signed, and has been solid ever since.

Strengths:
Spicer is very solid against the run. He is strong and holds his position well. Spicer is also very disciplined, and doesn't get fooled very often by misdirection.

Weaknesses:
Spicer is solid, but unspectacular. He has a hard time rushing the passer and isn't really considered a play-maker. Spicer will also be 32 years old by the time the season begins.

Best case/Worst case scenarios:
Spicer's best case scenario is that he holds off his younger competition and wins a starting job again. Worst case scenario is that Spicer gets outplayed by one of the younger guys and the team releases him to save a few cap dollars.


Bobby McCray
Bobby McCray is a former seventh round pick by the Jaguars in 2004, and has exceeded all expectations since joining the team. McCray is one of the team's best pass rushers, and has a very quick first step. McCray had some issues over his restricted free agent tender, and missed most of mini-camp before he finally ended up signing.

Strengths:
McCray has an explosive first step that gets him around most left tackles on his way to the quarterback. McCray is a pure speed rusher, and makes the most out of his opportunities, as he has 19 career sacks, while starting less than 16 games.

Weaknesses:
McCray is tall and lanky, and can have some problems holding the point of attack. Still needs to put on some muscle to become a solid every downs defensive end.

Best case/Worst case scenarios:
McCray gets a lot of playing time due to Hayward's injury and has another double-digit sack season, which gets him paid well after the season by someone. Worst case scenario is that McCray's big year in '06 was just an aberration, and he's really not that good.


Brent Hawkins
Brent Hawkins was a fifth round pick by the Jaguars in '06, and he played the role of designated pass rusher for the Jaguars last season and caused havoc in his limited playing time. Hawkins has explosive speed on his way to the quarterback, and finished with two sacks in just six games, playing primarily in third and long situations. Hawkins season was cut short when he suffered a groin injury in a week seven game at Philadelphia.

Strengths:
Hawkins is as quick as anyone off the ball, and he can cause havoc in the backfield.

Weaknesses:
Hawkins is a bit of a tweener, and is likely too small to be an every downs defensive end. Mostly a pass rush specialist.

Best case/Worst case scenario:
Hawkins will have an opportunity to win playing time in '07, and maybe he impresses the coaching staff enough to play every down. Hawkins worst case scenario is that he gets lost in the crowd of Jaguars pass rush specialists.


James Wyche
James Wyche is a former seventh round pick in '06, that started the season on the Jaguars practice squad, and was lifted off the squad and onto the 53-man roster from week nine on. Wyche wasn't active for any games in '06.

Strengths:
Wyche is a big, strong guy that can hold at the point of attack. Wyche can also contribute on special teams.

Weaknesses:
Wyche doesn't have a very fast first step, and hasn't proven that he can rush the passer at the NFL level. Will likely be a rotation guy for his career.

Best case/Worst case scenarios:
With a solid camp, Wyche can make the Jaguars final 53-man roster. Worst case scenario for Wyche is that the team doesn't have much invested in him, and he gets out-played by the more athletic guys on the roster and finds himself on the practice squad again.


Jorge Cordova
Jorge Cordova is a former third round pick by the Jaguars in '04, and has missed a lot of time in his career with various injuries. Cordova played his first healthy season in '06, and was used mostly on special teams.

Strengths:
Cordova was selected to be a designated pass rusher, due to his good speed off the ball. Cordova can also play special teams, and blocked a punt in '06.

Weaknesses:
Cordova hasn't stayed healthy much in his career, and when he has been healthy, he hasn't made much of an impact.

Best case/Worst case scenarios:
Cordova impresses in camp, and shows why the Jaguars drafted him in the first day in '04. Worst case scenario is that he loses his rabbit's foot, and he gets out-played by younger, more athletic guys.


Brian Smith
The Jaguars used a fourth round pick on Brian Smith in April's draft because of his exceptional pass-rush abilities that he showed in college. Smith had 31.5 sacks in just 44 games at the University of Missouri, before missing a big part of his senior season with a broken hip.

Strengths:
Very fast off the edge, very productive in college.

Weaknesses:
Health issues with his broken hip, and he's a little undersized to be an every downs defensive end in the NFL.

Best case/Worst case scenarios:
Smith can have a good camp, and immediately be thrown into the Jaguars defensive end rotation. Playing along with Henderson and Stroud, Smith will have an opportunity to make plays. Worst case scenario is that his hip hasn't healed enough for him to play and he spends the season on the practice squad.


Kenny Pettway
The Jaguars signed Kenny Pettway in the latter part of the '06 season from their practice squad, after he spent his rookie season in '05 with Houston. Pettway is a special teams contributor and can make some plays at defensive end.

Strengths:
Pettway is a speedy guy who can chase down plays from the back side. Pettway is a hard-worker, who isn't adverse to playing on special teams.

Weaknesses:
Isn't a great athlete, weak at the point of attack.

Best case/Worst case scenarios:
Defensive end is wide open, and he will have an opportunity to challenge for a roster position. Worst case scenario is that the team has virtually nothing invested in him, and he will start near the bottom of the depth charts.


The Jaguars will enter the '07 season with the defensive end position being the most unsure. No one knows how healthy Reggie Hayward will be following his ruptured Achilles, and if he can play, no one knows how effective he will be. Paul Spicer is aging, and he's nothing more than a solid, average starting defensive end. Bobby McCray is somewhat one-dimensional, and Hawkins, Cordova, Smith, and Pettway are all big question marks. For the Jaguars defense to truly be one of the best, most dominant units in the league, someone out of this group must step up and play big.



Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Jagnation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to various national news outlets. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association.

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