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Jaguars' Tucker gets chance to revive 'D'

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Recent posts by Arthur Arkush

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Posted Jan. 16, 2011 @ 12:28 p.m. ET
By Arthur Arkush

Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver announced in his season-ending press conference that head coach Jack Del Rio would be retained for the 2011 season but Del Rio's defensive play-calling responsibilities would be given to coordinator Mel Tucker. Del Rio's control over the club has been systematically reduced the last two years, as Weaver gave all of Del Rio's authority on personnel decisions to GM Gene Smith last offseason.

Tucker was the one coach whom Smith hired when he was named GM. A former defensive coordinator with the Browns, Tucker, who we're told relates very well to his players, has worked primarily with the defensive backs and helped game-plan in '09 when the Jaguars experimented with a 3-4. But this will be his first opportunity in Jacksonville to call plays for a defense that allowed the most points and yards in franchise history this season.

The Jaguars operated exclusively in an even front in '10. Smith, however, drafted players like DT Tyson Alualu and DEs Larry Hart and Austen Lane, all of whom are flexible enough to play either in an even or odd front. We're told the club is likely to stick with the 4-3 in 2011, but it will be clearer the direction in which it is headed as the offseason progresses.

One of the changes that Weaver hinted at in his press conference was the need for better-disguised blitz packages. Weaver called the Jaguars' blitzes "very vanilla," and word is, the impetus for that analysis had to come down from Smith, as Weaver is more of a salesman than a football expert.

The fact is the Jaguars were limited in their ability to be creative with blitzes the past few seasons. They simply haven't had the proper personnel. The linebacking corps, other than SLB Daryl Smith, has not lived up to expectations, often failing to get to the quarterback even when a blitz was called. MLB Kirk Morrison and WLB Justin Durant are both free agents who might not re-sign. The safety position has also been a well-documented Achilles' heel for the club. FS Don Carey was a major liability last season. But these are two areas expected to be addressed by Smith this offseason, perhaps putting Tucker in a better position to generate pressure and return the Jacksonville "D" to respectability.

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