Derrick Harvey (Getty Images)
In order for the Jaguars defense to return to prominence, the team will need players to step up across the board. While defensive tackle and safety might be the most notable positions of concern, a great deal of the unit’s success will hinge on finding a star edge rusher. This need for a game changer could potentially make last year’s first-round pick, Derrick Harvey, a huge X-factor for the team.
The Jaguars took a monumental leap of faith in last year’s draft when the team traded up 18 spots in the first round to take Derrick Harvey. The team was (and still is) desperate for an elite pass-rusher and hoped that Harvey could fill that void.
Things didn’t get off to a good start last season for Harvey, as he held out for a team record 33 days over contract disputes. When Harvey finally took the field, he was somewhat underwhelming and he totaled just 3.5 sacks as a rookie.
“Last year is what it is,” said Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio. “It’s in the books. We can’t go back and change anything about last year. It’s onward and upward.”
Del Rio might not have had too much good to say about Harvey’s first year as a Jaguar, but he likes what he’s seen out of the 6’5”, 271 lb. end early this offseason.
“Again, I think the work he’s putting right now is a nice place to start. He won’t have to deal with not being here in camp all those types of things, being a rookie and it being new.”
Why is Harvey’s growth as a rookie to a second-year veteran so crucial for the team? Well, the Jaguars have been looking for a dominant pass-rusher for the entire Jack Del Rio era. The team whiffed on free agent acquisition Hugh Douglas in 2003 and current defensive end Reggie Hayward has been up and down due to injuries. Because of these misses in free agency, Jacksonville’s defense has always missed a potent pass-rusher.
With a secondary that might have hard time consistently matching up man-to-man, it is essential for the Jaguars to get consistent pressure on the quarterback and that’s where Harvey comes in.
For many first-round picks, the growth from year one to year two is critical. If the player doesn’t make any improvement, the b-word (that’s bust) begins to be thrown away and front office types might start searching for other players. That’s not always the case, but the Jaguars’ coaching staff doesn’t have the luxury to wait for a player to take years to develop at this point, so this is definitely a huge year for Harvey.
“Yeah, I would say he will determine what type of player he’s known for, or going to be known for, for the next several years and beginning with this year,” said Del Rio.
Last season, the Jaguars finished 20th in the NFL with 29 sacks and 17th in the league with 13 picks. A lack of pressure led to a lack of interceptions, so an improvement on the edge will ultimately help the team out in both categories.
With that in mind, the Jaguars need to find a bonafide pass-rusher. With Hayward’s health still an issue, Harvey could be the missing link that ties the team’s defense together.
For more, go to: JagNation.com