NFL Nation: Sen\'Derrick Marks

Examining the Jacksonville Jaguars' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
General manager David Caldwell has said he likes to keep three quarterbacks, which means all three will have to be on the active roster, because Stanzi is ineligible for the practice squad. Stanzi should start the season as the No. 2 because he’s more ready to play than Bortles, but that will likely flip-flop at some point. Stephen Morris is a practice squad candidate.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

If the Jags elect to keep only four backs, Todman and Johnson likely would battle for the final spot. That is assuming Robinson continues to be very good in camp. He might end up getting more playing time than any of the other backs after Gerhart if he shows he can be a reliable pass-catcher. Johnson has to prove he can pass block and doesn’t have problems with ball security.

RECEVIERS (6)

The first four players should be locks, but it will be an interesting competition for the final two spots among Brown, Taylor, free-agent signee Tandon Doss, undrafted rookie Allen Hurns, and former practice-squad player Chad Bumphis. Doss missed most of the organized team activities and minicamp because of a calf injury, allowing Taylor, Bumphis and Hurns to get valuable reps. Doss was not a consistent receiver in his three seasons in Baltimore and has more value as a returner, but Sanders’ strength is as a punt returner and the Jags have other options at kickoff returner. I have Taylor narrowly beating out Hurns because of his experience, but I can easily see that being flipped if the Jags want to add more size. Hurns is 6-foot-3; Taylor is 6-0.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Jensen flashed during OTAs and gets the edge over three other players. He’s a big kid (6-6, 270) who is a raw version of Lewis, one of the league’s best blocking tight ends. Jensen will need a year or two to develop and likely will be used as an extra blocker more than a pass-catcher.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)

Some of the battles for starting jobs along the line are going to be intriguing during camp. Joeckel and Beadles are safe, but every other spot is up for grabs. Even Pasztor, who started 12 games last season, is uncertain because we don’t know how his surgically repaired shoulder will hold up during camp. If it’s fine, then he will win the starting job at right tackle. McClendon and Linder are battling for the right guard spot, and Brewster is going to have to hold off Bowanko and two others to be the starter at center. Bradfield has value because he can play both tackle spots.

DEFENSIVE LINE (10)

This should be the biggest upgraded position on the roster thanks to the additions of Clemons, Bryant and Hood. Despite public perception, Alualu isn’t on the bubble for two reasons: He played solidly last season, and there really isn’t anyone else on the roster as talented as he is to back up Bryant. The Jags are excited about Smith, who could end up playing more than Davis as the No. 3 LEO (hybrid end/linebacker) by the time the season is over.

LINEBACKERS (6)

Either John Lotulelei or J.T. Thomas, two key special teams players last season, could stick if the Jaguars decide to keep an extra linebacker instead of five cornerbacks, or if Hayes’ surgically repaired knee doesn’t respond well. Reynolds did a solid job subbing for Watson (groin) during OTAs and minicamp at the new OTTO position (replaces strongside linebacker).

CORNERBACKS (5)

The Jags will have to decide whether to keep fourth-year player Mike Harris or Jeremy Harris, a seventh-round pick in 2013 who spent his rookie season on injured reserve with a back injury. The 6-2, 185-pound Jeremy Harris is a better fit for what coach Gus Bradley wants in his cornerbacks than the 5-10, 188-pound Mike Harris, who was a member of former GM Gene Smith’s final draft class. Blackmon has been working inside as well, which also makes Mike Harris expendable. Fourth-round draft pick Aaron Colvin will begin the season on the PUP list and doesn't count against the roster limit.

SAFETIES (4)
Chris Prosinski has seemingly been a bubble player since he was drafted in the fourth round in 2011, but there is too much competition for him to survive this time. Martin started 36 games for Carolina in his first five seasons, and that experience gives him the edge. Evans seems to be the name everyone mentions when talking about the first Caldwell draft pick to get cut, but though he might lose his starting job to Guy, he’s likely to stick around at least another year.

SPECIALISTS (3)

These guys should have little or no competition to make the roster.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- His name was still atop his locker and there were a few items still in it -- some shirts, a towel, toiletries -- but that was the extent of Jason Babin's presence with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday afternoon.

The team cut the defensive end early in the morning, a move coach Gus Bradley said was done now because of the development of some of the younger pass-rushers, but also as a sign of respect for the 34-year-old Babin to give him a chance to land with another team before training camps begin next month.

Babin
Marks
"We had to ask some tough questions about eventually the 53 guys that are going to be up on Sundays," Bradley said. "We feel that he still has some good games in him and some really good play in him. We were just juggling to try to find a way to get it done within our system. We feel like it was best to give him the opportunity to get out there and hook on with another team.

"I don’t know if there ever is a right time or how to do it. We try to do the best we can, but when we’re dealing with a man like Jason Babin that is tough on both sides."

Babin led the team with 7.5 sacks in 2013 and had nine sacks, 57 tackles and five forced fumbles in 21 games with the Jaguars. His teammates will miss him for more than that, though.

"Just the leadership he brings, the knowledge he brings," said defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, who had the locker next to Babin. "Knowing everybody and how we were with Babs, Babs left a lot behind just by the things he used to teach and the way that he carried himself. I’ll talk to Babs probably for the rest of my life just because of the type of guy he is.

"He was the same way every single day. I don’t want to sit here and talk like he passed or he died or something, but Babs -- he was just a great guy. He always was willing to teach and he’s always willing to help."

Second-year defensive end Ryan Davis is one of the younger players -- along with rookie Chris Smith and second-year player Gerald Rivers -- who will benefit from Babin’s release. He was still surprised by the move, though.

"It was shocking," Davis said. "Jason was a key piece of this team, definitely helped this team in leadership. We were such a young team and he helped in my development. ... Whenever I needed to know something I’d go ask Babin and Babin would direct me or tell me what the best move was or pre-snap keys and stuff like that. [He taught me] how to prepare for a game. Babin was very instrumental in stuff like that. Not only that, he’s a great guy."

Babin might have come to Jacksonville in 2012 with a bit of a reputation as a surly guy, but that was not the case with the Jaguars. In fact, Bradley called Babin a "tremendous" leader and said he was a big help to him during the team’s rough start to the 2013 season.

"He ended up being one of our strongest leaders," Bradley said. "We went through some tough times and I leaned on him. He did a great job.

"... He’s a big part of what we’re building here and always will be."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There they sat on a shelf in Denard Robinson's locker, an inch or so from the edge, quite visible to anyone walking by.

Two collectible figures of Robinson in Michigan home and road uniforms in action poses. He’s throwing the football, of course, since he was a quarterback for the Wolverines.

That sounds neat to someone like you and me, especially since they don’t make sports writer action figures, but it apparently violated one of those unwritten locker room codes and Robinson’s teammates good-naturedly jumped all over him once they were alerted to the figures’ presence.

Denard Robinson
Michael DiRocco/ESPN.comDenard Robinson's teammates poked fun at the action figures he has in his locker.
"Pretty conceited," said receiver Cecil Shorts, whose locker is about 20 steps away. "If that’s what he wants to portray himself as, feel free."

Said defensive end Andre Branch: "That’s a bit much."

Running back Jordan Todman smiled when he saw the action figures and immediately deemed them a fineable offense.

"It’s called reminiscing," Todman said as he called Toby Gerhart over to Robinson’s locker to see them. "We can’t talk about what we did in the past. We’ve got to move forward."

If there was going to be one person in the locker room who had Robinson’s back it would have to be quarterback Chad Henne, the only other Michigan alum on the roster. Not so much.

"He’s big time now," Henne said.

The Wolverine camaraderie apparently has a limit.

"Take it out of the locker room, at least," Henne said. "I mean, c’mon."

Defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, whose locker is on the row that backs up to the row that includes Robinson’s locker, said he and the rest of the defensive linemen had no idea about the action figures. Those skill guys live in a different world, he said.

"I don’t go over to that side [of the locker room]. I stay in the hood," he said. "We don’t go over there to Hollywood."

But does he have a problem with Robinson having action figures of himself in his locker?

"We haven’t been on the cover of a game," said Marks, referencing Robinson’s appearance on the cover of EA Sports’ "NCAA Football 14" video game. "When you’ve been on the cover you can do that."

All of these comments were compiled while Robinson was lifting and not at his locker so he was unaware that he was going to have to explain himself when he did return.

"One of the fans [at the Jaguars’ open OTA last Thursday] gave it to me out there when I was coming in," Robinson said. "He gave me another one before. Actually he gave me a Jacksonville one last year."

Okay, but you left them on a shelf in your locker? You had to know that was not going to end well.

"Actually, I was trying to take them home but I didn’t want to take them upstairs [where the players eat lunch]," he said. "I’m trying to be low key.

"I should have hid them, right?"

Uh, yeah.

Then Robinson found out about his impending fine.

"Man, that’s messed up," he said.

Robinson did finally defend himself, and he does make a good point.

"I mean, not a lot of people get a chance to have one of these so I’m glad I could collect that and have fun with that," he said.

Not nearly as much fun as his teammates are having.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With more than $50 million in salary-cap space at the beginning of the month, the Jacksonville Jaguars had plenty of ammunition to go on a spending spree.

Michael Johnson, Michael Bennett and Aqib Talib were available. So were Alex Mack, Eric Decker and Jared Veldheer. The Jaguars had enough money to sign three or four of those players, and they certainly would have made the team significantly better in 2014 -- maybe even a playoff team.

But the Jaguars didn’t pursue any of them. General manager David Caldwell resisted the lure and signed seven second-level free agents to responsible, team-friendly contracts. He and coach Gus Bradley are adamant about not taking a shortcut in the second year of the franchise’s rebuild.

"We all know there’s expectations and we get that," Bradley said. "But I think for me it’s more the city of Jacksonville deserves an opportunity to be a part of something really good. I think [owner] Shad [Khan] deserves that and so does Dave. In order to do that, I think we have to be really strict and disciplined to go on our journey this way."

[+] EnlargeGus Bradley
AP Photo/Michael ConroyDespite a 4-12 record, coach Gus Bradley said the Jaguars made significant strides in 2013.
Sometimes it’s hard not to stray, but being patient and building the franchise through the draft is what sold Khan on Caldwell and Bradley. He learned that was the best approach pretty quickly after purchasing the team in November 2011.

Khan listened to then-general manager Gene Smith and opened up his considerable pockets and splurged in his first free agency. The Jaguars signed receiver Laurent Robinson to a five-year, $32.5 million contract and cornerback Aaron Ross to a three-year deal worth up to $15.3 million. They also signed defensive end Jeremy Mincey to a four-year extension worth $20 million, including $9 million guaranteed.

They signed several other players, too, and Khan sat back and eagerly awaited the playoff appearance that Smith said would come because of those signings.

The Jaguars went 2-14.

"Certainly, I’ve learned my lesson," Khan said. "If you look at the teams that are successful, they’re going to be built through the draft and some missing pieces are going to be filled in through free agency. I think that is the formula for success."

Khan fired Smith and then-head coach Mike Mularkey after the season and hired Caldwell away from the Atlanta Falcons. Caldwell in turn hired Bradley away from the Seattle Seahawks and the two put together their plan to rebuild the franchise.

They signed 10 new free agents in March and April and hit big on four: linebacker Geno Hayes, cornerback Alan Ball, defensive tackle Roy Miller, and defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks. None were in high demand and the most expensive was Miller, who signed a two-year deal worth $4.5 million. The four combined to start 59 of a possible 64 games.

Among the team’s eight draft picks were offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, safety Johnathan Cyprien, cornerback Dwayne Gratz and receiver Ace Sanders. All four started as rookies and showed they are foundation pieces moving forward.

Despite those additions, the Jaguars went 4-12 and started the season by losing their first eight games by double digits. Yet Bradley said the 2013 season was important because it helped establish the culture and the standards by which the team operates.

"We had valuable, valuable lessons that we could teach our team," Bradley said. "We talked about not getting consumed in defeats. We talked about not reveling in accomplishments. All these conversations came up -- celebrating victories, getting better for everybody, being unselfish, learning trust, all these things came up in our conversations last year, and I loved every aspect of that.

"If my sole focus was on winning or losing, I would have missed all that, and we would have missed all those lessons for our team."

It was evident the roster in 2013 was even less talented than anticipated, which produced the temptation to try and speed the process along by splurging in free agency this March. Caldwell and Bradley didn’t waver even though they know expectations are bigger in their second season and they’ll be bigger in 2015 and 2016, as well.

Short-term rewards are not more valuable than long-term success.

"We want to have a consistent winning team moving forward," Khan said. "I think with this rebuilding over and over again is brutal for the fans. I mean, it’s brutal if you have anything to do with it. Just think about it. There are maybe a dozen teams that are always in contention that always manage to be competitive.

"Our goal is we consistently we want to be there."

Free-agency review: Jaguars

March, 18, 2014
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Clemons
Most significant signing: The Jaguars have finished last in the NFL in sacks the past two seasons, so adding defensive end Chris Clemons, who has 58 career sacks, was a good move. The 32-year-old Clemons had just 4.5 sacks last season after compiling 33.5 from 2010 to 2012, but he was returning from a torn ACL he suffered during the 2012 playoffs. He's a speed rusher, which is something the Jaguars haven't had since Tony Brackens (1996-2003).

Most significant loss: There is still a chance the team can re-sign running back Maurice Jones-Drew, but it would be surprising at this point because the Jaguars signed Toby Gerhart last week. Jones-Drew is finding that the market for running backs isn't as lucrative as he hoped. The Jaguars aren't likely to re-sign tight end Allen Reisner or defensive tackles Brandon Deaderick and Kyle Love, but they didn't figure into the team's plans beyond 2013, anyway. Seattle signed receiver Taylor Price, who has missed the past two seasons with a foot injury.

Gerhart
Biggest surprise: The Jaguars needed to pursue a running back because of the uncertainty with Jones-Drew, but signing Gerhart was unexpected. It's a good fit, though, because Gerhart is exactly what the Jaguars wanted. He's young (he turns 27 later this month) and has low mileage (276 carries in five seasons). At 6-foot and 231 pounds, Gerhart is a physical, between-the-tackles runner who can give the Jaguars positive yardage on first down. The Jaguars averaged just 3.4 yards per rush on first down last season, the third-lowest total in the league.

What's next: The Jaguars aren't done in free agency. General manager David Caldwell said he'll let the market settle and then go bargain hunting, an approach that worked last year with defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks. Caldwell would like to add another guard or center, an outside linebacker and a big, physical receiver. Those spots will also likely be addressed in the draft because the Jaguars have 11 picks. Beefing up the defensive line and adding guard Zane Beadles gives the Jaguars flexibility in the draft. They aren't stuck drafting for need.

Recapping Day 3 of free agency

March, 14, 2014
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Day 3 of free agency was busier than the first, with the Jacksonville Jaguars adding defensive end Chris Clemons, defensive lineman Ziggy Hood, and re-signing outside linebacker Jason Babin. Clemons and Hood received four-year deals, and Babin signed a three-year deal.

Here are some initial thoughts from Day 3:

Hood
Hood
It will be interesting to see what kind of production the Jaguars get from Hood, who really wasn't much of a factor as a defensive end in Pittsburgh. The Jaguars are going to use him as a three-technique defensive tackle, which is where he played at Missouri and recorded 14.5 sacks in four seasons. The Jaguars want him to help provide interior pass rush, which is something they got from Sen'Derrick Marks last season. It wouldn't be surprising to see him, Dekoda Watson, Clemons and Babin on the field on some third downs.

Clemons gives the Jaguars something they haven't had in a while: a speed rusher. Though he turns 33 in October, Clemons still appears to be playing at a high level. His 4.5 sacks last were a significant drop-off from the 11.5 he had in 2012, but he was returning from a torn ACL suffered in the 2012 playoffs. He said Thursday that it wasn't until the playoff game against New Orleans this past season that he finally felt he was back to the player he was in 2012. He, Babin and Andre Branch should split reps.

Now that the Jaguars have re-worked their defensive front and added pass-rushers in Clemons and Watson, does their plan for the draft change? If GM David Caldwell was thinking of taking Jadeveon Clowney or Khalil Mack, does he now consider Sammy Watkins, one of the quarterbacks, or even one of the offensive tackles? I don't think so -- at this point, anyway. There are still pro days and workouts ahead -- Teddy Bridgewater throws Monday -- and the Jaguars will continue to evaluate players until they come up with their final draft rankings. One thing to consider, though: The draft isn't deep in pass-rushers, but it is on the offensive side, especially at receiver.
Here is the sixth of a 10-part series breaking down the Jacksonville Jaguars' free-agency needs, position by position:

Defensive tackle

Who’s on the roster: Brandon Deaderick, Abry Jones, Kyle Love, Sen'Derrick Marks, Roy Miller, Jordan Miller and Drake Nevis.

Analysis: The Jaguars are in good shape with Miller and Marks, who signed a four-year extension in December after having the best season of his career. Miller’s play was impacted by his chronic shoulder injury but offseason surgery should fix that issue and he should be the same player he was in Tampa Bay before he signed with the Jaguars in 2013. It’s after those two that the Jaguars have problems. Jones and Miller are young and Nevis has not developed after being drafted in the third round in 2011 by Indianapolis. Love was with the team in training camp, was cut, and then brought back late in the season because of injuries.

NFL free agents of interest: Tony McDaniel, Earl Mitchell, Lamarr Houston and Arthur Jones.

Need meter: 8. Marks gives the Jaguars an athletic tackle who can also rush the passer while Miller is a prototypical run-stuffer. The Jaguars need to upgrade behind Marks and Miller and they will look for help in the draft as well. A four-man tackle rotation would help limit the amount of snaps Marks plays. He was on the field for 805 snaps in 2013, which is too many.
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.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars general manager David Caldwell can be very aggressive in free agency if he chooses because the Jaguars are projected to have the third-most cap room available when the free-agency period begins next month.

According to a Feb. 7 report from Roster Management System, the Jaguars will have nearly $30 million in cap space. The team's cap number -- which includes salaries, penalties, dead money, and futures contracts -- for 2014 is $96,517,190, well below the estimated 2014 salary cap of $126 million.

That leaves the Jaguars with $29,482,810 to spend on free agents and draft picks.

Only two teams in the NFL have more projected cap room: Indianapolis ($33,096,844) and Oakland ($58,242,920).

But just because the Jaguars have a significant amount of money to spend doesn't mean Caldwell will be writing a lot of big checks. The Jaguars will target some offensive and defensive linemen in free agency, especially a center, and will be somewhat aggressive early and then back off in the hopes of finding a bargain later in free agency.

That doesn't mean the Jaguars are going to jump into the competition for Alex Mack, who is one of the league's top centers. Ryan Kalil signed a six-year, $49.12 million deal in 2011 with Carolina that made him the NFL's highest-paid center and Mack's deal is expected to top that.

He may not even be available, either, because Cleveland could sign him to an extension before his contract expires last month. Mack also said he would give the Browns the chance to match any offer he received.

"Some of these guys [available linemen] are going to get signed before free agency becomes available," Caldwell said. "We'll just have to wait and see who becomes available and who's out there. You have the franchise tag and some other methods that teams use to keep their guys so we'll see.

"There will be another influx of guys that become available when teams have to get under the salary cap."

Waiting paid off for the Jaguars last year. They signed four unrestricted free agents from other teams (linebacker Geno Hayes, cornerback Alan Ball, running back Justin Forsett and defensive tackle Roy Miller) from March 13-15 and then added defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks on April 2.

Marks had a career year and ended up signing a four-year contract extension in December.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan created a bit of a stir among fans when he said it’s no mystery that the team would draft a quarterback in May -- and possibly even two.

Notably absent from his comments, however, was the phrase "in the first round."

The Jaguars have the No. 3 overall selection and will have a shot at Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles. For months I’ve been on the Bridgewater bandwagon. I believe he’s the most polished, NFL-ready quarterback in the draft. Manziel wouldn’t be a bad option either because he’s such a dynamic player and will certainly make the Jaguars instantly relevant nationally.

The Jaguars, though, should pass on a quarterback with their first-round pick. They should do the same in the second round, too.

[+] EnlargeJadeveon Clowney, Dak Prescott
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesUsing the No. 3 overall pick on an elite defender like South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney, 7, could appeal to Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley.
That certainly won’t be a popular opinion among fans, who desperately want the team to move on from Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. But it’s the best decision for general manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley as they continue their rebuild of the franchise. Fix and bolster the defense first, especially the pass rush and the secondary, then make quarterback a priority.

Two reasons:

Defense is more important to winning championships than most people realize.

Young, inexperienced quarterbacks, provided they have the pieces in place around them, can make it to and win Super Bowls.

Seattle won the Super Bowl last Sunday because of its stifling defense, which led the NFL in yards allowed per game, passing yards allowed and scoring, and finished tied for seventh in rushing yards allowed. The Seahawks absolutely throttled Denver’s record-setting offense and badgered Denver quarterback Peyton Manning in a 43-8 victory.

But don’t believe that what the Seahawks did signifies a changing philosophy or the start of a new trend in the NFL in which defense -- and not elite quarterbacks -- win championships. Defense has been winning Super Bowls for years, but people overlook that because of the elite quarterbacks.

Six of the past 10 Super Bowl winners had a defense that ranked in the top 11 in the NFL in three of the four major statistical categories (total defense, rush defense, pass defense and scoring defense): Seattle, Green Bay (2011), Pittsburgh (2009, 2006), New York Giants (2008), and New England (2005). Each of those teams -- with the exception of the Seahawks because it’s too early to tell how good Russell Wilson will be -- also had elite quarterbacks.

The Green Bay team that thrived on Aaron Rodgers' right arm? The Packers' defense ranked second in scoring and fifth in passing and total defense. Pittsburgh’s 2009 Super Bowl title team led the league in total defense, pass defense and scoring defense.

The last time New England won the Super Bowl was 2005. That was Tom Brady's third title in four years, but the Patriots' defense was one of the league’s best that season, ranking second in scoring, sixth in rushing and ninth in total defense.

The four other Super Bowl champs of the past decade won because of their quarterbacks (Baltimore in 2013, New York Giants in 2012, New Orleans in 2010 and Indianapolis in 2007), but the Giants wouldn't have won without their pass rush, and the Saints might not have won without cornerback Tracy Porter's fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown.

The Jaguars’ defense has some solid building blocks -- tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, linebacker Paul Posluszny, safety Johnathan Cyprien and cornerback Dwayne Gratz -- but Caldwell and Bradley need to bolster the pass rush, get more depth on the defensive line and add help at outside linebacker. They should address those areas in the first two rounds, especially if they can nab defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 3 pick.

Bradley is surely in favor of taking that approach. It’s the way Seattle did it during his four years as the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator, and we just saw how well it worked. The team was built around its defense, and everything was in place for a Super Bowl run once Wilson was added to the mix.

Wilson is clearly not an elite quarterback right now. He wasn’t even in the Seahawks’ plans two years ago when they drafted him in the third round, because Pete Carroll had traded for Matt Flynn in the offseason and gave Flynn the starting job. Wilson beat out Flynn and has played solid but not spectacular football, winning a Super Bowl ring in his second season.

More proof that young quarterbacks aren’t a hindrance to success: Colin Kaepernick led San Francisco to the Super Bowl in his second season in the league; Andrew Luck has led Indianapolis to the playoffs in his first two seasons; Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers to the AFC Championship Game as a rookie; and Brady won a Super Bowl in his first season as a starter, which was his second season in the NFL.

Taking a quarterback with the No. 3 pick won’t guarantee that the Jaguars will be ready for a playoff run in 2014 or 2015, especially if, as some inside the building believe, none of the quarterbacks available in this draft are ready to contribute right away. There is no guarantee that Bridgewater, Manziel or Bortles will turn out to be a better quarterback than Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger or Jimmy Garoppolo, anyway, and those latter three are players the Jaguars could land in the third round or later.

The Jaguars need immediate impact players, which is why taking Clowney or another elite pass-rusher in the first two rounds is the better -- albeit not popular -- option.
MOBILE, Ala. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars, like every team in the NFL, have their share of trash-talkers.

Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks and suspended receiver Justin Blackmon probably top the list, but neither has taken it to the level that Richard Sherman did last Sunday. They yip at opponents during games but leave it on the field.

And that’s just the way Jaguars coach Gus Bradley wants it. A little dialogue on the field is fine during the game, but nothing dramatic or outrageous that puts someone in the spotlight because of what he said. No public feuds, bulletin board material or boasts allowed.

"I think that generally we talk about really focus on the team and try to keep the attention on the team, but we understand things like that can happen," Bradley said. "It’s a heated moment and sometimes it can happen. As quickly as possible we want to bring it back to the team."

The Jaguars haven’t had any instances of out-in-the-open trash talking under Bradley, which isn’t surprising considering the team lost its first eight games by double digits and finished 4-12 in 2013. The closest thing you could find is defensive end Jason Babin tackling Arizona running back Andre Ellington by his dreadlocks and ending up with a handful of hair from Ellington’s head.

Babin downplayed the incident after the game.

"Seems like everyone’s making a big deal about it," Babin said. "But it’s just one of the plays in the football game."

The Jaguars have done some in-house trash talking, though. Marks recovered a fumble against Cleveland and appeared headed for his first career touchdown when he was caught from behind by Browns guard John Greco. Marks’ teammates really let him have it for getting run down by an offensive lineman.

But Marks didn’t mind and even admitted he deserved it.

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 29
Preseason Power Ranking: 29

Biggest surprise: When the Jaguars signed defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks to a one-year, $1.5 million contract last April, they thought he’d be a good fit in coach Gus Bradley’s system. Turns out he was a perfect fit. Marks plays the three-technique, which means he lines up on the guard’s outside shoulder, and that position is supposed to provide interior pass rush. Marks finished with four sacks, nine quarterback pressures and eight pass breakups -- all numbers that equaled or surpassed the totals from his first four seasons. He seemed to make at least one impactful play every game and he accounted for two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. His play earned him a four-year contract extension as one of the building blocks of the defense.

Biggest disappointment: The Jaguars’ inability to consistently run the ball, especially early in the season, was vexing. The Jaguars switched from a predominantly man-blocking scheme to a zone-blocking scheme, and the offensive line had trouble with the transition. Four of the five starters at the beginning of the season also started in 2011, when Maurice Jones-Drew led the NFL in rushing. The Jaguars mixed in more man-blocking schemes as the season progressed and things got better, but the problem wasn’t “fixed.” In addition, Jones-Drew clearly was not the same player he was two years ago. He missed all but six games last season with a Lisfranc injury and also battled ankle, knee and hamstring issues this season.

Biggest need: The Jaguars have a pretty long list of needs, but two stand out above all others: quarterback and pass-rusher. Quarterback is the top need because former first-round pick Blaine Gabbert isn’t the answer and neither is Chad Henne, who will be a free agent but wants to return to Jacksonville in 2014. The Jaguars haven’t had a bona fide threat at quarterback since coach Jack Del Rio put Mark Brunell on the bench for Byron Leftwich in 2003. New general manager David Caldwell and Bradley need a player around which to build the franchise, and the Jaguars will have the opportunity to possibly find one when they pick third overall in May’s draft.

Team MVP: The first impulse is to go with middle linebacker Paul Posluszny, whose 161 tackles ranked second in the NFL. He was clearly the team’s best defensive player and arguably the best overall player. However, what Henne did to stabilize the offense earns him MVP honors. Gabbert had played terribly in the first part of the season (seven INTs, one TD) and Henne stepped in and played the most consistent football of his career. He didn’t always light it up and he made some poor decisions and mistakes, but he kept the Jaguars in games in the second half of the season and made enough plays to go 4-4 after the bye. He threw nine touchdown passes -- including the game winner against Cleveland with 40 seconds to play -- and five interceptions over the final five games.

NFC Teams: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

 
The Jaguars may not have had anyone voted to the Pro Bowl, but the team is pretty well represented on the All-AFC South team.

Linebacker Paul Posluszny, defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, linebacker Geno Hayes, kicker Josh Scobee, and kick returner Jordan Todman made the team, which was chosen by the reporters covering the four teams.

Posluszny finished second in the NFL with 161 tackles (Cincinnati’s Vontaze Burfict had 171) to go along with 3 sacks, 10 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles, 6 quarterback pressures and 2 interceptions. He clearly was the Jaguars’ best defensive player and arguably was the team’s best overall player.

He was the lone Jaguars player who should have earned Pro Bowl honors, but he was hurt by playing for a small-market team that finished 4-12.

Marks posted a career year in his first season with the Jaguars, making 34 tackles, breaking up eight passes, forcing two fumbles, and recovering three fumbles to go along with four sacks and nine quarterback pressures. He had 3 sacks, 8 passes defensed, 3 forced fumbles and no fumble recoveries in his first four seasons with Tennessee.

The team was so pleased with his performance that last week they signed him to a four-year contract extension reportedly worth up to $22 million.

Hayes played through a right knee injury much of the season and made 78 tackles, intercepted one pass, and broke up three others. The injury got progressively worse but he missed just one game, the season finale against Indianapolis, and will undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair cartilage damage and remove some loose particles in his knee.

Scobee made 23 of 25 field goal attempts this season. His only miss came from 60 yards and he had a 49-yard attempt blocked. Scobee was 15-for-15 from 39 yards and in. Todman averaged 27.4 yards per kickoff return, seventh-best in the NFL. That was the best mark in the division. Houston’s Keshawn Martin finished eighth in the league (26.3 yards per return.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It’s obvious that the Jacksonville Jaguars made significant progress in the second half of the 2013 season.

But it is just as obvious that they still have a long way to go to be competitive in the AFC South.

It was painfully evident in Sunday’s 30-10 loss at Indianapolis. The Jaguars were not dominated as much as they were in a 37-3 loss to the Colts in Jacksonville in Week 4, but it was ugly, especially early. They were down 17-0 and the game was essentially over after the first quarter.

[+] EnlargeMaurice Jones-Drew
AP Photo/AJ MastMaurice Jones-Drew fumbled on the Jaguars' first drive, setting up Indianapolis for a touchdown.
"I just didn’t think that we executed very well today," coach Gus Bradley said. "We missed some opportunities, we missed some reads, we missed some wild combinations, we missed tackles, some assignments. I don’t want to make it sound like it was just a complete disaster. It wasn’t. But it wasn’t up to our standard. It wasn’t the consistency that we’re looking for."

It’s going to take a lot more than just another draft and a couple of free-agent signings before they can compete with the Colts, who are clearly the class of the division. Granted, the Jaguars have been banged-up in the final month -- especially on defense, where they were without four starters -- but so are the Colts. They were missing 15 players who were placed on IR this season, including receiver Reggie Wayne. That means injuries cannot be used to explain away Sunday’s rout.

Jaguars general manager David Caldwell and Bradley have gotten off to a good start in revamping the roster, but there are still major holes to fill. There are some building blocks in place on defense, especially in the secondary with safety Johnathan Cyprien and Dwayne Gratz. Defensive tackles Sen’Derrick Marks and Roy Miller and middle linebacker Paul Posluszny give the Jaguars a solid foundation up the middle, too. But the Jaguars have to add a pass-rusher, find another cornerback and get help at outside linebacker.

It’s on offense where more work needs to be done, though. Rookie left tackle Luke Joeckel showed promise before he suffered a fractured ankle in Week 5 and was lost for the season, but he still has to prove himself capable of being an elite player. The staff likes right tackle Austin Pasztor, but is he the answer there?

The interior of the offensive line needs an upgrade, too, especially at center now that Brad Meester has retired.

But it’s at the skill positions where the Jaguars really need work, starting at quarterback. Chad Henne had a solid season as a starter, and his 331 yards passing against the Colts made him the first Jaguars quarterback to surpass 3,000 yards since David Garrard in 2009. Henne’s a caretaker, not a franchise quarterback, and there’s no guarantee he’ll be back next year anyway because he’s an unrestricted free agent. Even if he re-signs, the Jaguars have to address that position in the draft.

The situation at running back also is unclear because of Maurice Jones-Drew’s situation. His contract is set to expire, and while he says he wants to return, it’s likely that he wants to test the free-agent market to see what kind of offers he can generate. Jordan Todman has proven capable of being a complementary back but not a feature back.

The Jaguars have a solid No. 2 receiver in Cecil Shorts, who missed the last three games because of a groin injury, but no No. 1 with Justin Blackmon suspended indefinitely for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Ace Sanders, Mike Brown and Kerry Taylor (eight catches, 75 yards, one TD against the Colts) are complementary pieces.

The Jaguars need to find a big-play -- and big -- receiver. Only one receiver who has a catch this season is taller than 6-foot, and he’s now on IR (the 6-1 Stephen Burton).

That sounds like a lot of work, and it is, but the task ahead shouldn’t overshadow the work that has already been done. The Jaguars (4-12) are a better team now than they were in September, especially when it comes to the culture in the locker room and around the facility.

"There was growth," Bradley said. "I feel like we competed the whole way through. Sometimes you have those days where it doesn’t go exactly how you had hoped, and we’ll learn from it. I asked the team to reflect on everything that we had done this year, and I think some tremendous growth has taken place. I give credit to our team and that our whole objective was to create a new standard, a new standard of excellence and they helped in that, what’s acceptable.

"We’ll take this season, we’ll grow from it and we’ll add to it."
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.

[+] EnlargeSen'Derrick Marks
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsIn his first season in Jacksonville, Sen'Derrick Marks is having a career year.
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."

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