Quentin Groves (Phil Coale/AP)
The Jaguars are into their bye week with a 3-3 record, not terrible for a team in rebuilding mode. JagNation is now going to give our grades for the Jaguars defense through six games.
Defensive Line: C
This is the first season that the Jaguars are in the 3-4 defense, and with a major switch in philosophy there will be some growing pains. John Henderson has transitioned seamlessly from defensive tackle to 3-4 end, and it appears that Atiyyah Ellison has secured his starting role opposite Henderson as the other 3-4 end. In the middle, rookie Terrance Knighton has been better than anyone expected, as he routinely sucks up blocks and makes life easier for the guys behind him. The defensive line has been pretty solid against the run, as they finished week six ranked 13th in the league.
The Jaguars linebackers are the best part of their defense, at least on paper. Derrick Harvey has moved from defensive end to outside linebacker, and he still plays both positions. Although many believe Harvey is a bust at this point in his career, he gets pressure on opposing passers and he's trying to rapidly learn multiple positions. Harvey's draft classmate, Quentin Groves has been a bit of a disappointment. Groves gets routinely overpowered and hasn't shown the tendency to make big plays that the Jaguars expected of him. Daryl Smith has been his usual solid self, but he's failed on many occasions to make big plays and become one of the elite backers in the league. Plenty has been expected of Justin Durant, but he's had trouble staying healthy this year and his numbers are down. Clint Ingram makes some big plays, but also gives up big plays and misses tackles. Brian Iwuh supplies solid depth.
Aside from a nightmare performance against Seattle, Rashean Mathis has been very good in 2009. Mathis played well against Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson, two of the league's best receivers. Mathis has two interceptions this season. Rookie Derek Cox has had his fair share of ups and downs, but he shows potential that makes many think he can be an impact player. Cox was abused on opening day against Reggie Wayne, but he's improved since and is currently tied with Rashean Mathis for the team lead in interceptions with two. Tyron Brackenridge has split time with Scott Starks at nickel, and Brackenridge has played well for the most part.
The Jaguars safeties have played better in the last few games, but they are far from a strength. Former first-round pick Reggie Nelson is mediocre at best, as he routinely bites on play fakes and often takes terrible angles when attempting to tackle. Gerald Alexander has been solid since moving into the starting lineup for an injured Sean Considine, and Alexander appears to be a better cover safety than a hitter. Sean Considine is the ultimate average safety, as he doesn't make any big plays, but he prevents most big plays.
Special Teams: C
Josh Scobee has been good this season, as he has one of the strongest legs in the game which is utilized on kickoffs. Punter Adam Podlesh is below average as he lacks a powerful leg. The return game is very solid with the speedy Brian Witherspoon, but 'Spoon has been injured for much of the year. Rookie Mike Thomas has filled in and shows the ability to make plays, but the Jags are amongst the bottom of the league in punt returns. Kickoff coverage has been mostly good thanks to the deep kicks by Scobee, but punt coverage has been somewhat lacking.