New Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley appears set to begin his rebuild by focusing on his area of expertise, defense.
Bradley intends to target hybrid pass-rushers for his multiple defensive schemes, in the 2013 NFL draft, according to NFL.com.
Bradley has vowed to run the same mix of 3-4 and 4-3 fronts he directed as coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks in 2012. Bradley's defense ranked fourth in the league in yards and allowed the fewest points per game.
Bradley's schemes are designed to feature a hybrid edge-rusher. This player combines attributes of a true defensive end, along with the flexibility to act as a stand-up, rush linebacker.
With the Seahawks, Bradley referred to this position as "Leo." In the eighties and nineties, the likes of Lawrence Taylor and Charles Haley defined the position as "Elephant."
Whatever name applies, it is the actions of this versatile player that determines the look of Bradley's defensive fronts. If the player aligns in a stand-up position, the scheme bears a 3-4 skin. If instead the "Leo" puts his hand down and rushes from a three-point stance, the front resembles a 4-3.
While the Seahawks boasted Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin, Bradley lacks a true hybrid rusher in Jacksonville. Fortunately, the 2013 draft class is rich at the position.
Perhaps the best candidate is Georgia's Jarvis Jones. At 6'2" and 245 pounds, Jones has the build of a natural outside pass-rusher. He's also agile enough to drop into coverage and occupy short zones. Jones certainly merits the draft's second overall pick.
As accomplished as Jones is, Texas A&M's Damontre Moore might be the smarter selection. He has thrived at both 3-4 outside linebacker and 4-3 rush end at the collegiate level. That makes Moore an ideal choice for Bradley's scheme.
Moore might be considered a so-called "reach" with the second pick. But he is a defensive playmaker with natural hybrid skills.
An outside choice to play "Leo" for Bradley, is LSU star Barkevious Mingo. He is projected to fit best on the edges of a 3-4 scheme, due to his body type and takeoff speed.
Yet Mingo flourished as a 4-3 pass-rusher at LSU and certainly offers the crossover skills Bradley covets. Mingo could fit the mould of a Tamba Hali, DeMarcus Ware-type player, who are outside linebackers in name only.
Whomever Bradley tabs for the key role on his defense, it's clear he is not short of quality options to choose from. The fact that he is even looking to go defense with such a prime pick may come as a surprise.
Few would debate that the offensively-challenged Jags' desperately need a quarterback, before they make the first of four trips to Wembley this October.
But as significant as the need for a quality signal-caller is, the truth is a 2-14 team needs help everywhere. In fairness to Bradley, the usually stout Jaguars regressed badly on the defensive side of the ball in 2012.
One year after ranking sixth overall, Jacksonville's defense slipped to 30th in both points and yards last season. Lack of a credible pass rush was a major reason for these woes.
The Jaguars mustered a pitiful 20 sacks and gave opposing quarterbacks all the time they needed to dissect an overwhelmed secondary. Bradley is certainly short of speed up front, after the Jaguars spent years in a 2-gap 4-3, that demands bigger linemen.
That's a recipe for disaster against Wembley opponent the San Francisco 49ers. If the Jaguars hope to trouble last season's Super Bowl runners-up, they'll have to contain nimble-footed quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Drafting a cat-quick, hybrid rush end could give Bradley the perfect weapon to keep Kaepernick in the pocket. Bradley's Seahawks defense encountered Kaepernick and the Niners in Week 16. His hybrid fronts held the dual-threat quarterback to 244 passing yards and only 31 yards on the ground. That helped key a 42-13 Seattle win.
If he finds his "Leo" rusher in April's draft, Bradley could rebuild the Jaguars quicker than expected and make the Wembley game closer than many anticipate.
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