JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Locking up defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks for the next four years was a good move by the Jaguars. It ensures they'll get the prime years of Marks' career, and at a reasonable price, too.
General manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley both referred to Marks as a foundation piece for what the Jaguars are building on defense. They've already landed a few in the secondary in cornerback Dwayne Gratz and safety Johnathan Cyprien. Linebacker Paul Posluszny was already here. Now they've got an anchor on the defensive line.
But this never would have happened had Marks listened to critics instead of his gut. The critics said to stay away from Jacksonville but Marks said his instincts told him this would be the best place for him so he signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with a $920,000 signing bonus last April.
"When I was telling people I was going down to take a visit to Jacksonville, everybody always said, ‘Why Jacksonville?'" Marks said. "As soon as I signed it was, ‘You went to the worst team in the league.' But I knew my gut feelings and I came down and I actually met with the coaching staff and saw how great a deal that was. Met with the guys that were going to be around me. Got into what the scheme was going to be and I understood exactly what my role was going to be in the defense.
"I knew I had a chance to come down here and perform well and I stood with [defensive line] coach [Todd] Wash and I went along and I went and did it."
Marks' production backed up his gut. He's the Jaguars' three-technique defensive tackle, which means he typically lines up on the outside shoulder of the guard. In the Jaguars' scheme, they want that position to provide some pass-rush pressure up the middle, too. It was a perfect fit.
Marks is finishing up a career year: four sacks, eight passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. He had three sacks, eight passes defensed, three forced fumbles and no fumble recoveries in his first four seasons in the NFL with Tennessee.
"I think we had high expectations of what Sen'Derrick could bring to this organization and he exceeded those," Bradley said.
What Marks also exceeded was the normal amount of playing time for a defensive tackle. Marks played 83 percent of the Jaguars' defensive snaps, a number that's way too high and one that has to be pared down significantly if he is to be as effective as he was this season in 2014 and beyond.
Part of the reason for his high snap count was the fact that defensive tackle Roy Miller was dealing with a chronic and painful shoulder injury that limited his snaps. There wasn't exactly a lot of quality depth behind Marks or Miller, either.
Miller played well despite the injury and has undergone surgery on his shoulder, so he should be a much better complement next season. But the Jaguars still have work to do on the defensive line. Marks is a great start, but a foundation is useless if there's nothing for it to support.
"Obviously we're in this stage in building this team and [it's good] to get to a point where we can build around and help him out, too," Caldwell said. "There's some school of thought for us, too, that he probably played too many snaps this year and if we can get him some help next year he'd be that much more effective in pass-rush situations."
Marks is hoping other defensive linemen will listen to his gut instead of critics, too.
"Hopefully everybody can see that we are building something, and I saw that firsthand," he said. "All I can tell people if I was asked is we're building something great here and I think it was shown throughout the season. If you want to go the opposite way you can but all I can tell you is we're building something great."