The Jaguars have many holes to fill in next week’s draft.
Safety does not appear to be one of them. The team selected strong safety Johnathan Cyprien with the 33rd overall pick last year and he responded with a quality rookie season.
Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said that upgrading the free safety position was “not a high priority” in January. Josh Evans and Winston Guy appear set to enter training camp in a tight battle for the starting job.
Guy appeared to overtake Evans late last season and has more explosiveness. The 6-foot-1, 218-pound Guy was originally a sixth-round choice by Seattle in the 2012 draft. He played in two games as a rookie, was released late in the preseason and claimed by the Jaguars last Sept. 1.
Guy played in 14 games for the Jaguars with two starts.
Evans was a sixth-round pick, who started 11 games as a rookie last season. Evans (6-0, 205 pounds) was pressed into starting after Dwight Lowery sustained a season-ending concussion early in a Week 3 loss at Seattle.
Both Evans and Guy held their own at times. However, there were few big plays. Neither player intercepted a pass. They each were credited for one pass defended.
Cyprien picked off a pass and logged six pass breakups to go along with 98 tackles.
Jaguars coach Gus Bradley would like to eventually have a safety combo like the one he helped mold in Seattle as defensive coordinator. The Seahawks have the league’s best tandem in Pro Bowlers Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, a major reason why Seattle crushed Denver’s record-breaking offense 43-8 in the Super Bowl.
The Jaguars are hopeful Cyprien can become similar to Chancellor.
There’s no one close to Thomas on the roster. Thomas, the 14th pick in the 2010 draft, just signed a four-year, $40 million extension this week.
“Each team is different and requires different things out of their safeties,” Caldwell said. “Some teams want two guys who are interchangeable. That’s not us. We have specific needs out of our strong safety and specific needs out of our free safety.”
Thomas has 15 career interceptions and 33 pass breakups in his four years. His impact on Seattle’s championship run will certainly try to be emulated, as the Jaguars eventually look for a similar playmaker.
“Because of the Super Bowl, that one [Thomas] really stands out,” Bradley said. “But, we believe we have a recipe in how we’re putting this thing together and the importance of each player. … We just have to stay true to get the types of guys we’re looking for. It’s not just on the field, but how they handle themselves. It’s the leadership skills they have and all those qualities. He’s a great example of what it can look like.”
There’s no safety in this class worthy of taking with the third overall pick. So an unlikely scenario would have to play out for the Jaguars to consider taking the safety that would appear to be their best fit.
Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton Dix and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor are considered the consensus best two safeties in the draft, but have different styles. Pryor plays like Chancellor, while Clinton Dix has more of the Thomas skill set.
“I saw Clinton-Dix on tape and he looks good,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s going to go high.”
Both safeties are expected to be selected somewhere between picks 10-22. That would mean the Jaguars would have to trade down for Clinton Dix to be in serious consideration.
How could that happen?
Dallas picks 16th and could want to move ahead of Cleveland at No. 4 to select Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Such a move would be bold on Dallas owner Jerry Jones’ part and also cost a treasure of draft picks.
Bradley says he has studied Clinton Dix, a 21-year-old who played three seasons with the Crimson Tide. That is mildly surprising based on the highly unlikely scenario he would be on the board when the Jaguars pick in the second round at No. 39.
Clinton Dix (6-1, 208 pounds) ran a 4.58-second time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in February and was the fastest safety in the 20-yard shuttle (4.16 seconds) and 60-yard shuttle (11.63 seconds).
“You’d like to be in a situation where you can take best available,” Bradley said when asked about the safety position. “That’s what coaches talk about. We want to take the best available, but there is need that plays a small part of it. You try to satisfy your needs, too, but you like to at least put where that is in the equation in looking at the best available.”
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