In short order, Mel Tucker ready for debut

December, 5, 2011
12/05/11
12:11
PM ET
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In his first year calling plays for the Jacksonville defense, Mel Tucker’s had a solid season for the Jaguars.

He was given a huge upgrade in personnel out of free agency, and the team’s issues in a 3-8 season have been primarily on offense.

[+] EnlargeMel Tucker
AP Photo/Phil Coale, FileJaguars interim coach Mel Tucker makes his debut on Monday against San Diego.
Tonight, as he debuts as the team’s interim coach in a home "Monday Night Football" game against San Diego, Tucker will be without his three top outside cornerbacks.

Will Middleton has joined Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox on injured reserve.

While Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has struggled this season, he could be in line to make some connections at EverBank Field, where recent addition Ashton Youboty, undrafted Kevin Rutland and retread David Jones are in line to play in Jacksonville's secondary. Jones, who struggled mightily last season, was re-signed as Middleton went to IR.

Drew Coleman plays as the nickel corner and seems to be pigeonholed there, but whether Tucker likes him outside or not, the Jaguars might have to use him more.

I’m not sure what Tucker can do in the team’s remaining five games to hold on to the job. He’s respected and he’s expected by those who put him in place to do well. But after nearly nine seasons of Jack Del Rio, the Jaguars are a team in need of fresh air, and new owner Shahid Khan is likely to want to make a splash with an outsider who revamps the way the team plays.

Tucker has been assured of an interview, and many are mentioning him as a strong candidate for the post. At this stage I’d guess it’s more likely the new coach, hopefully an offensive mind, recognizes the Jags' productive defense and tries to get Tucker to return to the coordinator post.

ESPN’s Mike Tirico will do the play-by-play of tonight’s game. He watched Saturday’s practice and was part of a production meeting with Tucker.

“He’s very detailed, very organized,” Tirico said. “I think it’s definitely an approach that would be what I’d expect from a guy who’s learned from Nick Saban and Jim Tressel, among others. The practice was a crisp, well-paced practice.”

It’s been a whirlwind week. Tucker had no hint of what was coming when he reported to work Tuesday. Since then, he dismissed receivers coach Johnny Cox, shifted Mike Sheppard from quarterbacks to receivers coach and gave offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter full sway over the quarterbacks.

He’s overseen the construction and installation of a game plan. He’s dealt with Middleton’s injury.

And he’s very likely implemented some other unseen alterations to the operation.

“For that sort of fire drill for a guy who’s 39 and has never been a head coach, he’s seems pretty organized,” Tirico said.

At his first practice as the head man leading up to this game, Tucker arrived 30 minutes early. He talked of wanting to get some fresh air, but also confessed it gave him the vantage point he wanted as he began to watch everything.

The Jaguars know they’ve got new eyes on them.

What Tucker sees will be important. What Tucker shows will be more important.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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