Barnes holding off Collier (JagNation.com)
Although the Jaguars experienced success in 2007, winning their first playoff game in eight years, it was a trying season for starting left tackle Khalif Barnes. Barnes play on the football field was mostly good, but not great, and he had a few off the field indiscretions.
The title of starting left tackle isn’t exactly a given for Khalif Barnes anymore, as former undrafted rookie Richard Collier is pushing him hard, and the team seems to be promoting the battle for the starting job.
“You can improve," said Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio. "That's part of what your offseason work is about. That's part of what as coaches we pride ourselves on, being able to get guys to do things as well as they're capable of. It's going to be competitive. It should make for some good competition."
Barnes, a starter since early in his rookie season, is facing competition for his job for the first time in his pro career. Barnes was politically correct when talking about the advantages of competition.
“The one thing about it, it’s the NFL and one thing it does is makes your team stronger when you have competition at a position,” said Barnes. “We have good players all around the board and you make somebody compete and it makes your team better from top to bottom. It makes the depth better and it’s good for everybody.”
Khalif knows that his current backup, Richard Collier is a talented player, but Barnes is not going to let his job be taken from him without a fight.
“If you want to step up, you have to take a job and win it,” said the former second-round pick from Washington. “It’s unusual for me, but that’s what being in the league is all about. It happens every year, and I feel I have to compete every year anyway.”
Khalif briefly discussed some of the attributes of his teammate Richard Collier, and handicapped the competition—
“It just so happens that this is more of a competition every year because Rich (Collier) is a pretty good player. He’s very athletic, and it should be good competition all over the field, but this should be a pretty good one too. In his mind, he wants to be a starter, he hasn’t been yet (in the league). He’s hungry to try to be one, and I’ve been starting all my career, and I want to continue that way until I choose not to, until I want to retire. There’s pride on my side, and there’s pride on his side, so it will be a good thing. We’ll see what happens on in.”
A pretty good competition it is sure to be, and it speaks volumes that the Jaguars extended the contract of Collier, as well as David Garrard, Paul Spicer, Tony McDaniel, and Rob Meier, but failed to extend Barnes. Although Barnes play has been solid, yet unspectacular, the Jaguars may not be sold on him due to his attitude stemming mostly from the off the field issues.
In a post-training camp press conference, Barnes was asked if he could be a backup. Khalif was certainly less politically correct with his answer—
“To be totally honest with you, I don’t think so. I don’t think I can be one but that is up to me, but it’s not up to me, if Rich continues to do a good job and he handles his business, and they want him as a starter, that’s just how it will be, and we’ll talk later on about what will happen to me, but as for right now, it’s a good competition between the both of us and the best guy will win there and hopefully it will be me. That’s what we all strive to be. We all want to be the best and we all want to be a starter.”
Most veterans are marked men in a league in which general managers are always trying to get their rosters younger and cheaper. In Barnes case, he’s only 26 years old and his competition, Collier is about six months older. Barnes has been the Jaguars starter for nearly three full seasons and although he’s not mentioned as one of the best tackles in the league, he’s proven that he can keep the Jaguars most prized possession, quarterback David Garrard safe on the football field.
Can the Jaguars afford to take the chance of sitting down a solid starter for an inexperienced player who has started just one game? Jack Del Rio took a big chance last season with his quarterback situation and it worked out beautifully. Like Khalif Barnes said, “we’ll see what happens.”