Jacksonville Jaguars: Will Sutton

With the NFL combine starting Wednesday, here's a look at the Jacksonville Jaguars' positions of need on defense and which prospects the team might be looking taking a closer look at in Indianapolis. Positions of need are listed in order of importance. We looked at the offense on Monday.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars have a lot of holes to fill on the roster and the next part in the process comes this week when general manager David Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley evaluate, watch, and interview prospects at the NFL combine.

Here’s a breakdown of what the Jaguars need, in order, on defense and some potential targets:

Babin
Leo: Call this need No. 1A, just barely behind quarterback. The Jaguars have finished last in the NFL in sacks in each of the last two seasons and desperately need someone that can affect the quarterback on a consistent basis. Jason Babin and Andre Branch manned this spot in 2013 but Babin is scheduled to make $6.175 million in 2014. The 33-year-old Babin led the Jaguars with 7.5 sacks in 2013 but he’s making elite defensive end money and he’s not an elite defensive end. He has said he'd be willing to re-negotiate his contract because he likes it in Jacksonville, but he also can declare himself a free agent because of a clause in the new CBA. It'd be a surprise if Babin is on the roster in 2014 under his current contract. Branch really improved in 2013 because defensive coordinator Bob Babich and defensive line coach Todd Wash got him to become more consistent with his effort. He’s a long way from being a 15-sack player, though, and that’s what the Jaguars need.

Potential targets: Jadeveon Clowney, Dee Ford, Anthony Barr, Khalil Mack.

Outside linebacker: Geno Hayes turned in a solid year in 2013 (78 tackles, two interceptions, three pass break-ups) despite playing through a nagging knee injury that eventually forced him to miss the last two games. But the Jaguars still need to upgrade both outside spots. It was partly due to his knee injury, but Hayes didn’t make very many impact plays and Russell Allen, the starter on the other side, made none. The leo spot is a hybrid end/outside linebacker that specializes in rushing the passer, so the outside linebackers don’t need to be elite pass rushers. They need to be athletic enough to play in coverage and have the ability to blitz if needed.

Potential targets: Ryan Shazier, Telvin Smith, Lamin Barrow.

Defensive end: This is the spot opposite the leo in the Jaguars’ defense and it doesn’t call for an elite pass-rusher. The Jaguars want a big, physical end who can anchor the line of the scrimmage in the run game. Tyson Alualu held the job last season and was solid (44 tackles, eight QB pressures, three tackles for loss), but the Jaguars need more production there. The only other player at that spot is Ryan Davis, who spent most of last season on the practice squad. They’re also hoping for a little more pass rush production than what Alualu had, but it’s not the primary responsibility.

Potential targets: Brent Urban, Jackson Jeffcoat, Scott Crichton.

Defensive tackle: The Jaguars’ two starters are set with Sen'Derrick Marks and Roy Miller, but the Jaguars need to add some quality depth here. Marks is coming off a career year and was awarded a four-year extension. Miller battled a shoulder problem all season but underwent surgery after the season concluded and should be fine by the time OTAs begin in April.

Potential targets: Will Sutton, Caraun Reid, Deandre Coleman.
MOBILE, Ala. -- It was a productive week for the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Reese’s Senior Bowl. The information the coaching staff gained by their hands-on experience with the players is invaluable and will certainly help in draft evaluations.

The coaches were able to see how the players handled themselves in meetings, transferred what they learned onto the field, and reacted to unfamiliar situations. That’s information they can’t get at the combine, a school’s pro day, or in interviews. That could be a tie-breaker on draft day.

Here are 10 players from the South team who could end up on the Jaguars’ roster -- either as draft picks or free agents -- by the start of training camp. Obviously, not all of them will be available, but it wouldn’t be surprising if three or four ended up in Jacksonville:

LB Jerry Attaochu (Georgia Tech): He’s one of the players the Jaguars tried out at their "Leo" position (hybrid end/linebacker) and that is where they would play him if they drafted him. He has a good burst off the line and was one of the more athletic linebackers on the roster.

QB Derek Carr (Fresno State): He had the best week of all the South quarterbacks. He’s more polished than the others, and you can tell he has benefited from his older brother’s help. He’s got a quick release, too, although he doesn’t have ideal size (6-foot-2). He’s likely the Jaguars’ top quarterback target if they opt to take a pass-rusher in the first round.

DE Dee Ford (Auburn): Ford is explosive off the edge and blew by offensive tackles all week. He’s only 243 pounds, but his quickness more than makes up for his lack of bulk.

WR Kevin Norwood (Alabama): The Jaguars need to add size to their receiving corps, and Norwood certainly brings that (6-2, 197). He’s got good hands and ball skills. He can make plays on 50-50 balls, which is something the Jaguars lack. The only drawback is he doesn’t have great speed.

C Bryan Stork (Florida State): He might be a little undersized, but the guys at Scouts Inc. -- Todd McShay, Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl -- raved about his toughness all week. The Jaguars need a center to replace Brad Meester. Stork is smart and plays with a bit of a nasty edge.

DT Will Sutton (Arizona State): He was the most impressive defensive lineman all week. He doesn’t have ideal size (6-1, 315 pounds) so he’ll have to get by on his quickness. He’s more of a fit as a three-technique tackle, and he has shown the ability to rush the passer from the interior.

RB Lorenzo Taliaferro (Coastal Carolina): What stood out about him was his pass blocking. He was clearly the best this week, and had no trouble locking up linebackers. He has good size (6-0, 231 pounds), runs downhill, and also showed he can be a factor in the passing game.

DE Brent Urban (Virginia): He moves very well despite having a huge frame (6-7, 298 pounds) and did a good job shedding blockers and maintaining the edge. Though he’s more of a run-stuffing end, his length makes him a factor as a pass-rusher. He’s a fit for the spot that Tyson Alualu mans.

OLB Kyle Van Noy (BYU): His athleticism really showed up this week. He was one of several players the Jaguars tried at the "Leo" position, and he did a solid job.

CB Jaylen Watkins (Florida): He’s versatile enough to play inside and outside (he did both in college) and his man coverage skills were the best of the group. He had some good battles with former Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews, who was the best receiver this week. Watkins said his ability to recognize routes and his press coverage skills are because of his experience at Florida, where the Gators play nearly exclusively man coverage.

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MOBILE, Ala. -- Here are 10 observations/thoughts from Monday's Senior Bowl practices and interviews:

1. Though there was only one period at the end of South team practice in which the entire offense faced off against the entire defense, Monday was a good day to evaluate the quarterbacks. It was mainly from a mental standpoint, Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said. The offense was put in Sunday night and Monday was the first chance to see how well the quarterbacks transferred it from the meeting room to the field. Fisch said he was pleased with the way Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois), Derek Carr (Fresno State) and David Fales (San Jose State) handled that. There were mistakes and issues, but all the quarterbacks did a solid job.

2. There isn't a lot of size among the quarterbacks for either team, with the exception of Logan Thomas (Virginia Tech), who measured in at an impressive 6-5 5/8 and 250 pounds. Fales (6-1) and Carr (6-2) were both listed at 6-3 on the pre-measurement roster.

[+] EnlargeDee Ford
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillDee Ford, who had 2 sacks in the national title game against Florida State and 10.5 sacks for the season, impressed on Monday at Senior Bowl practices.
3. Maybe it's my SEC background (I covered Florida and the league for 13 seasons), but defensive ends Dee Ford (Auburn) and Chris Smith (Arkansas) were noticeably quicker than the other defensive linemen. It really showed during one-on-one pass-rush drills. Offensive tackles Joel Bitonio (Nevada), Wesley Johnson (Vanderbilt), Ja'Wuan James (Tennessee), Morgan Moses (Virginia) and Billy Turner (North Dakota State) really struggled with those two players on the edge. Turner had a particularly hard time, which is partly to be expected because of the step up in competition. However, it was a bit surprising to see Johnson, James and Moses have issues. The layoff is partly to blame.

4. Ford had 10.5 sacks, including two in the national title game against Florida State, and was consistently beating the tackles around the edge. It'll be interesting to see how he handles coverage responsibilities. He's not really big enough to play a down end (6-2 1/4, 243 pounds) so he'd likely fit in the Jaguars' scheme as a leo.

5. Jon Halapio (Florida) had a rough start in one-on-one run-blocking drills -- defensive tackle Will Sutton (Arizona State) threw him aside pretty easily -- but he rebounded to have a solid performance in the pass-rushing drills. He handled Sutton and tackle Deandre Coleman (California) in pass-rush drills.

6. From the Don't Read Too Much Into This Department: Jaguars GM David Caldwell wandered over to watch some of the one-on-one run-blocking drills and stood next to end Ed Stinson for a while. The two appeared to be chatting while Stinson was sitting out some drills. Stinson weighed in at 292 pounds so he'd be a better fit for the spot that Tyson Alualu plays. The Jaguars were satisfied with the way Alualu played the run last season but they'd like more pass-rush production out that spot.

7. Here's a name to keep an eye on as the draft rolls into the later rounds: defensive tackle Caraun Reid (Princeton). He had a really strong day in run-blocking and pass-rushing drills. He moves very well for his size (6-2 1/8, 301 pounds) and showed good strength and quickness. He tossed guard Gabe Jackson (Mississippi State) aside and got underneath center Bryan Stork (Florida State) and drove him back.

8. Another small-school player that caught my eye was running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (Coastal Carolina), mainly because he's the biggest running back participating this week (6-0, 231 pounds). He had a couple nice runs during the short 11-on-11 period. He ran for 1,742 yards and 27 touchdowns and averaged 6.3 yards per carry last season. He has lost only 20 yards in 356 career carries.

9. Receiver Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt) made a nice catch with a DB all over him during 11-on-11. Matthews (6-2, 209 pounds) is a physical player who caught 201 passes the past two seasons. He has good hands, knows how to use his body, and will make the tough catch. He doesn't have top-end speed, but he'll be one of the first several receivers drafted.

10. I wasn't that impressed with fullback Jay Prosch (Auburn), who struggled whenever he had to block an end or on the edge. Granted, there were only a few live periods but he seemed to be much better whenever he had to take on an inside linebacker.

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