Jaguars make another change to solidify secondary
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)
The Jacksonville Jaguars have shuffled their secondary again, creating the 13th different starting combination in the last 23 games.
It's a staggering number of personnel changes that have led to communication failure, busted coverage, big plays and, well, more personnel changes.
The latest one has Dwight Lowery replacing Courtney Greene at free safety as Jacksonville (1-1) prepares to play Carolina (0-2) on Sunday. The Jaguars believe it might just settle the defensive backfield.
''Whatever nucleus we develop, we need to develop it soon and get the guys on the field that we trust,'' cornerback Rashean Mathis said. ''Whether it's this four or the four before, we need to jell together to make this team successful. As soon as we develop a nucleus on the back end and chemistry, it will just make us better as a defense.''
Lowery could be the final piece to solidifying what was one of the worst pass defenses in the league last season. The Jaguars used six different safeties in 2010 - Greene, Gerald Alexander, Don Carey, Sean Considine, Reggie Nelson and Anthony Smith - and couldn't find success with any combination.
They signed free agent Dawan Landry during training camp, then acquired Lowery in a trade with the New York Jets a week before the opener. Both could be tested against Cam Newton and the Panthers, who lead the NFL with 16 pass plays of at least 20 yards.
''I feel ready,'' Lowery said. ''This is my fourth year. I understand the game a lot more. Things slowed down for me over the past couple years. I'm confident in that and I'm also confident in my teammates and coaching staff and getting me to play the defense and do the things that they want me to do out there.''
Coach Jack Del Rio said he benched Greene because Lowery is a more traditional free safety who is capable of ranging from sideline to sideline and tracking receivers across the field.
''Courtney Greene's been filling that role, but he's really ideally a strong safety and he's been doing a good job over there playing somewhat out of position,'' Del Rio said. ''But doing a good job as a strong playing in the free role, and we're going to move on and play Lowery.''
Greene handled the demotion well, saying he expects to play more on special teams while waiting for a chance to get back on the field every down.
''I've been in this position before,'' Greene said. ''It's frustrating, obviously. I'm just working to get back out there. ... In this league, things change. Week to week, everything changes, and obviously they wanted to go a different route. As long as we're winning, I'm all for it.''
The Jaguars have taken several different routes in the last 23 games.
Mathis and fellow cornerback Derek Cox have, for the most part, been staples in the starting lineup. Sure, Mathis missed five games in 2009 because of a broken finger and a groin injury, and Cox was benched for a few weeks last season and missed a game because of a pulled hamstring.
But compared to the safety position, Mathis and Cox are sure things every Sunday.
The constant turnover and fluctuating lineups have been vexing to say the least. The Jaguars ranked 28th in the league in pass defense last season, allowing the third most pass plays of at least 20 yards (58) and the second most of at least 40 yards (13).
''It's a challenge,'' Mathis said. ''Just from the communication standpoint, getting used to how a certain guy plays, knowing what to expect from a certain guy, it creates a challenge. Frustrating it can be. But then you have to come back to the reality of NFL football and understand this is the game that we play.
''A revolving door at any position could be on a weekly basis, whether it's an injury or from a front-office standpoint. The frustration has to be limited. As a pro, we have to check ourselves and understand that we still have to play football come Sunday.''