Del Rio ready to roll with rookie tackles

September, 7, 2009
9/07/09
5:02
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky


Jack Del Rio’s comfortable with his rookie tackles starting Sunday in Indianapolis, and he’s comfortable not revealing who his starting right guard is.

Maurice Williams was the starter at the spot on the final preseason depth chart, though he gave way to Tony Pashos in the preseason finale. Pashos has since been let go and signed with San Francisco. So it’ll be Williams, who missed last season with a biceps injury suffered warming up for the season opener, or Uche Nwaneri, who replaced him.

Del Rio didn’t offer a clue as to who it will be and wouldn’t say if players know when he talked to the local media Monday.

He was more revealing about starting left tackle Eugene Monroe, right tackle Eben Britton and cornerback Derek Cox and said he wasn’t wary of relying on youth and inexperience.

“I think that’s where you start, is you start with your best players,” he said. “Ideally you would like to have guys that are two-, three-, four-, five-year veterans, maybe older, that have been doing it, they’re proven commodities. I think we have to trust our judgment and the work that we put in and the evaluation process. We have some younger guys that are going to play right away and we expect them to play well. We expect to play well as a team.”

Later, he talked about the paths the team’s two top draft picks took to the starting lineup.

“I think Eugene came in a little bit of a delay at the start but then really came into camp and has been pretty steady throughout,” Del Rio said. “I think Eben on the other side probably started at a lesser place, maybe lower down the rung, but each week got better and better and better and then played very well even in our last preseason game. So each week he got better, dramatically better.

“So they both in different ways came in and earned a spot. We wanted to have good competition and make them earn it and I feel like through the whole process, the evaluation of all the exposure that we had with them was enough to evaluate. We do feel like the body of work that we have to look at with the offseason, with training camp, with preseason games, all of that, that they are our best options.”

I think the Jaguars are taking the right approach here. They’ve said they are re-tooling, most of us outside team headquarters view it as a rebuilding year. And when a team’s rebuilding the best course of action is to get those high draft picks on the field, provided they’ve showed they aren’t in over their heads, and let them learn from real experience. If Monroe and Britton live up to the pre-draft expectations they’ll do OK early and show quick and steady improvement.

That said, I expect Marcedes Lewis to line up beside Monroe often at Lucas Oil Stadium to try to help keep Dwight Freeney away from David Garrard.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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