Don’t expect the Jacksonville Jaguars to concentrate on making upgrades to the cornerback position once free agency begins.
Jacksonville starters Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox had their share of highs and lows in 2010, but they each finished the season strong enough to ease any immediate cause for concern and they should be more consistent in 2011.
There is a consensus among the Jaguars’ fan base that either Mathis or Cox will be moved to safety this season. This logic stems from the idea that neither player is a full-time cornerback because of age (Mathis is 30) or overall ineffectiveness.
That ineffectiveness stemmed more from horrendous safety play than anything, as neither starting corner had much help behind him. For a player like Mathis, who thrives off of taking gambles, the lack of confidence that someone had his back had to hinder his play.
I feel strongly that safety is the problem position for the Jaguars, as both free safety and strong safety are more or less unsettled.
Once those positions get fixed up in free agency, Mathis and Cox should become much more impactful because they will be allowed to play with freedom.
Mathis has battled with various injuries the past couple of years (played in all 16 games in 2010, the first time he’s done that since 2006) but when healthy he has the ability to be a fringe top-10 corner in the NFL.Plus he is entering a contract season so he will be playing with a little extra motivation.
Cox on the other hand has the range and fluidity to continue to improve into a solid starter and I doubt Gene Smith will let the coaching staff give up on his draft pick this early.
“Sometimes our corners are being stressed more than what they should be,” Smith said. “Sometimes people put a lot on our corners in terms of challenging them to play exceptionally well. You can see all of their bad plays because they’re beat for touchdowns, but I really believe as the pass rush improves and the safety play, the corner play will improve. It’s all connected.”
I do agree with Smith in that both corners were put in a tough position this year because of the lack of help around them. Both Cox and Mathis have too much ability to continue their up and down play and for now the Jaguars feel like they’re set at cornerback.
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