JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars GM Gene Smith graciously gave me some time Wednesday, and while some of what we talked about will be splashed into posts to come, some of what he said demands a quick turn.
Here are those nuggets:
Derek Cox moved from left corner to right corner late last year and continues to work on the switch. “He’s not where he was a year ago, he’s playing through something right now, he’s got a little bit of a soft tissue thing he’s playing through,” Smith said.
Corner Don Carey is “in the hunt” for a starting spot even without much experience, something Jack Del Rio mentioned a day earlier. Smith said Carey “has the instincts and the intelligence to play safety and enough movement skills to play right corner.” Carey is playing a lot of nickelback now.
Defensive tackle Walter Curry, a better run defender than pass rusher, is on the rise with the loss to D’Anthony Smith to an Achilles injury. “He’s a tough rugged guy, probably one of the strongest core strength guys on our team,” Smith said. “He has an opportunity to compete for that fourth tackle spot.
Even with D'Anthony Smith's injury, Gene Smith feels good about defensive line and offensive line depth. The offensive line will be one of the strengths of the team by the end of the year, he said. He’s looking for people to emerge at free safety and receiver. Smith said he feels like Tiquan Underwood’s been emerging.
Free safety “hasn’t been an asset for our defense, it’s been a little bit of a question mark. We don’t want it to be a liability. I feel like a couple players can emerge, they just need to show the level of consistency that we need to win game. You just don’t want a position group to be a liability. All your position groups aren’t going to be an asset, but you don’t want them to be a liability. And right now I don’t think they will be a liability.”
Vince Manuwai is behind. “When you have a guy at 325 coming off an ACL [tear in 2008] it’s probably a little different,” Smith said. “… He didn’t progress the way I know he would have liked and we would have liked. His weight’s down and he’s actually better in training camp than he was in OTAs in terms of his movement skills but he’s still not there yet. So this is a defining preseason for him.”
Center Brad Meester is thinner, healthy, moving better and still the quarterback of the group, Smith said. He also had a calming effect on David Garrard. A share of his poor reviews last year resulted from the guard play, and with better guard play he will be better. “I think too much was put on him,” Smith said. “There are not a lot of centers that are just pure power players when somebody is on their nose. The guards have got to help.”
Right tackle Eben Britton, off the last few practices, is not 100 percent with multiple soft tissue injuries, one that started late in OTAs.
Smith couldn’t be more please with left tackle Eugene Monroe. He’s lost 23 pounds, increased his lean muscle mass and is playing at a different level.
Garrard has “has got to be smart enough to know he’s not a one-man show. I really believe David will have a good year.” Smith said Garrard gives the Jaguars a chance to be in games and as the supporting cast improves, Smith expects Garrard to be closer to 2007 form than 2009 form.