Jaguars Focused On Linemen

Derrick Harvey (Doug Benc/Getty)

The Jaguars are focused on loading up on linemen. Jacksonville needs linemen on both sides of the ball and will look to stock up in the draft after failing to land a player of significance in free agency this past spring.

Trading Marcus Stroud to Buffalo not only relieved the Jaguars of a player who has seen his better days, but it also got Jacksonville two addition picks -- in the third and fifth rounds. That could prove to be the most important aspect of the draft for the Jaguars, who could package picks and perhaps a veteran player -- wide receiver Matt Jones? -- to move up in the draft order.

The Jaguars currently have the No. 26 overall pick and their immediate concern is that a quality defensive end won't be available at that selection. The team would like one of the elite prospects at the position.

Chris Long will of course be gone and who knows how many others will follow. The Jaguars are willing to move up and have three fifth-round selections as the start of a package to move up a handful of positions in the first round.

If the Jaguars don't take a defensive end, it will be because they couldn't put together an attractive enough package to move up from their current spot. They've done plenty of homework at that position.

There's a strong local sentiment for Jacksonville to target Florida defensive end Derrick Harvey. The team already has four former Gator players on the squad, down from six at one point after releasing Dee Webb and letting Bobby McCray go in free agency. Harvey would be a popular pick among the fans and could put more bodies in the stands for a team that has had to worry about TV blackouts.

If the Jaguars are able to deal and move up 10-12 spots, it could open the door for one of the ends they covet the most -- Clemson's Phillip Merling.

They really like Ohio State's Vernon Gholston for his quickness off the ball and his tenacity, but he's likely a top-10 pick. He recorded one of the two sacks that Michigan's Jake Long gave up his senior year and Long may be the overall first pick of the draft.

Merling is bigger than either Long or Gholston, which would aid him in stopping the run, something the Jaguars desperately need after Reggie Hayward suffered the Achilles tendon injury on opening day of the 2006 season and didn't perform close to what he showed in 2005, his first season with the Jaguars. At 6-4, 275, Merling wouldn't get pushed around by too many offensive tackles and he is a high-effort guy.

If a trade isn't available, the Jaguars could lock in on an offensive or defensive lineman or perhaps a safety.

Losing Stroud, with Rob Meier turning 31 this year and with John Henderson dropping off from his Pro Bowl seasons of 2004 and '06, there is concern about quality and quantity at the defensive tackle spot. Meier has been solid as a backup coming in to give Henderson or Stroud a breather, but he now comes in as a regular which limits the depth at the position.

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