Jaguars spend millions to overhaul porous defense
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)
Rashean Mathis experienced all of Jacksonville's recent defensive woes. Missed tackles, blown assignments, poor communication, Mathis was on the field for all of it.
So it's no surprise that the team's longtime starting cornerback got excited when he heard offseason talk about revamping the unit.
His reaction to the first four days of free agency was even stronger.
''For all the moves we're making, it's putting a smile on a lot of guys' faces,'' Mathis said. ''We're making moves to allow this team to get better - instantly. There's a lot of excitement going on.''
Indeed, the small-market Jaguars have been big-time players in the NFL's free-agent frenzy - spending millions to overhaul a defense that ranked 28th in the league last season and gave up a franchise record 419 points.
Jacksonville acquired linebackers Paul Posluszny and Clint Session, safety Dawan Landry and cornerback Drew Coleman. Throw in two rookies, safety Chris Prosinski and cornerback Rod Issac, and the Jaguars probably could use names on their practice jerseys.
''For us to take another step, we had to get a lot better on defense and I think we did that this week,'' general manager Gene Smith said.
It starts at linebacker, where Posluszny, Session and holdover Daryl Smith should provide coach Jack Del Rio with his best trio in nine seasons.
Posluszny, who signed a six-year contract worth $45 million, was in on nearly every tackle during his four years in Buffalo. The only knock on him was that he missed 19 games because of injuries.
''Poz is a leader, the kind of guy that has been a leading tackler for the team, he's going to rack up a lot of tackles here, he's going to be a smart guy directing traffic,'' Del Rio said. ''I just think we have a good, solid core of linebackers that we can expect to be strong defensively again.''
Session, who signed a five-year deal worth slightly more than $29 million, also came with some injury concern after missing most of 2010 with Indianapolis with a dislocated elbow.
''One man's trash is another man's treasure,'' Session said. ''I'm not belittling myself saying I'm trash or anything like that, but it's just I feel I can be very appreciated here and utilized to the fullest here.''
Posluszny and Session will replace Kirk Morrison and Justin Durant, two guys the Jaguars allowed to leave in free agency.
''This team is serious,'' Session said. ''They recognize what we need to improve and let's go get it. Let's go get it and let's make our team the best team, so we have no excuses and no explanations, and let's win the AFC South.''
Jacksonville has never finished better than second in the division, and secondary play has been a big reason the franchise has yet to knock off Peyton Manning and Indianapolis.
The Jaguars used a seemingly endless combination of defensive backs in 2010, with Gerald Alexander, Don Carey, Sean Considine, Derek Cox, Courtney Greene, David Jones and Anthony Smith getting starts alongside Mathis.
With so much turnover in the secondary, the Jaguars struggled to find chemistry and cohesiveness. They ranked near the bottom of the league in long passing plays allowed and let opposing quarterbacks compile a 98.5 passer rating - essentially making everyone look like the league's elite.
Landry and Coleman should help make that a tougher task.
Landry, who agreed to a five-year deal, spent the last five seasons in Baltimore. He recorded 362 tackles, nine interceptions and five sacks, and maybe more importantly, brings the experience of playing on one of the league's best defenses to Jacksonville.
Coleman, meanwhile, spent the last five years with the New York Jets. He served as the team's nickel cornerback, an oh-so-important role in what's become a passing league, and finished 2010 with five forced fumbles, four sacks and an interception. He agreed to a three-year deal worth $7.4 million and likely will have the same role with the Jaguars.
''To see how everything played out, I think everybody's happy and we're just ready to get everybody out here,'' Daryl Smith said. ''I'm ready to get everyone out here and start working. We look good on paper, but we've got to put the work in.''