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Jacksonville defense continues to take shape

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Recent posts by Arthur Arkush

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Posted July 29, 2011 @ 6:12 p.m. ET
By Arthur Arkush

After spending three of the club's five draft picks in April on offense, Jaguars GM Gene Smith cautioned fans who felt the defense was neglected, saying the focus in free agency would be on upgrading the league's 28th-ranked stop unit from a season ago.

Smith has been a busy man this week making good on his promise.

Less than 72 hours after landing former Bills MLB Paul Posluszny, the Jaguars have added two more key pieces to the defense, signing former Colts WLB Clint Session and former Ravens SS Dawan Landry to multi-year contracts. Both players will be immediately plugged into the starting lineup, giving Jacksonville's "D" a radically different look this season.

The PFW spin

Somewhere former NFL linebacker and current Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio is smiling. Not only has he been given two new linebackers to fortify his ballclub, he has been given two really good, passionate 'backers who leave absolutely nothing on the football field. Look no further than Session's Week Eight performance last season against Houston to know what this guy is all about. He suffered a fractured forearm and dislocated elbow in the first half of that contest, yet left the game only briefly to have his elbow snapped back into place before returning and playing the second half. The injury ended up costing him the final nine games.

An imposing figure against the run, Session likely will do battle with fellow newcomer "Poz" for the title of hardest hitter on the Jaguars. He is a big upgrade over enigmatic former Jaguar Justin Durant, who just could not put it all together during his time in North Florida. Session's strong suit is run support, but he is also fully capable of dropping back in coverage on a tight end or running back coming out of the backfield. The combination of "Poz," Session and extremely underrated SLB Daryl Smith gives Jacksonville arguably the best linebacking corps in the division.

Landry is coming off his finest season, in which he recorded 111 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. He is solid both against the run and pass, and addresses arguably the club's greatest weakness. SS Courtney Greene, the Jaguars' starter from a season ago, is far from a lock to start again this season, but it stands to reason that he will be a better player alongside the veteran Landry than he was with the inexperienced Don Carey.

I must admit, it's been strange watching Smith, a strong proponent of building through the draft, shell out all this dough in free agency. Session and "Poz" reportedly each received five-year deals that, combined, total roughly $42 million, including nearly $25 million guaranteed. (Although the details of Landry's contract have yet to emerge, I expect it will be similar to the others.) But remember: Jacksonville had no choice but to spend 89 percent of the salary cap, and for a team that has been rather frugal in recent years, that means it had plenty of cap flexibility before this spending spree began. What I love about their moves thus far is that, unlike last year's free-agent acquisitions, Aaron Kampman and Kassim Osgood, all three of these players are still young guys who are just entering the prime of their careers.

Do the Jaguars still have issues? Absolutely. The pass rush remains a big concern, plus I'm not sold on their receivers or who is going to line up opposite Landry on the back end. But one thing is becoming clearer in a hurry: the defense is going to be better, and it likely is going to have a nastier identity than it has in recent seasons.

 

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