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Can Kalil Mack be this Generation's Kevin Hardy?

Apr 16, 2014 -- 7:02am
By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)
 
The best part of the 2014 NFL Draft, aside from the fact it is in May this year and does not conflict with my daughter's birthday, is the unpredictability of teams picking in front of and behind the Jaguars. I'll say it again that this might be the most difficult Draft for Jacksonville in terms of making a selection since 1996 when the team took Kevin Hardy.
 
Hardy turned out to be a good player, but at the time, Jacksonville, in its second year of existence, had many holes to fill on both sides of the ball. The team hit on Tony Boselli in 1995 and finding another complimentary piece was vital to the growth of the franchise.  Much like it is this season.
 
If the 2013 Draft is considered a rebirth of the team, and Luke Joeckel is the "Boselli" that starts it all, the Jaguars will need another "Hardy" as a springboard for things to come. Tom Coughlin wore both the head coach and general manger's hats at the time - which meant no one really told him "no" - leading to cap issues in later years. Something tells me Dave Caldwell and his staff are not going to say "yes" to everything, but will be just as prudent in finding the right fit for the team, hopefully in the form of Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina.
 
The gamble of drafting a quarterback this year is too great to take.  While I still don't like the idea of picking a receiver this high, even Sammy Watkins of Clemson or Mike Evans of Texas A&M, should the team trade down, is a better choice than taking a flier on any one of the three headed QB monster that is Bortles, Bridgewater and Manziel.
 
If this Jaguars team wants to get its Hardy, then the pick should be Khalil Mack, assuming Clowney is off the board (I think the Texans take Clowney with the first overall pick).  His size, speed and agility make him a lock to play outside and on passing downs. Just another added piece to the defensive puzzle. And if you are concerned about the quarterback position or getting a stud receiver, don't fret. The Jaguars have enough ammo to trade back into the first round (New England, Carolina) to get a Jimmy Garoppolo or even Teddy Bridgewater - who I suspect will take a little trip downt he Draft ladder.
 
The Jaguars have had too much success this offseason to produce a poor draft. Adding more pieces to an already formed puzzle just makes the selection process that much more important. And for the fans, that much more exciting.

What About Tom Savage?

Apr 14, 2014 -- 1:22pm

By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)

The Jagaurs did their due diligence in bringing in six quarterbacks last week as part of their evaluation of NFL-caliber talent. But it appears there could be two or more quarterbacks could still be part of this grading process. One in particular could not only be an answer to the team's woes behind center, but could also be a real hit with the fans and team marketing.

Say hello to Tom Savage.

As a passer at Pittsburgh, Savage showed as a senior he is a player that might get drafted in the final few rounds of the NFL Draft or would be a free agent that could latch onto a practice squad. Then, Savage all of the sudden, caught fire in the eyes of many scouts, media members and general managers. In other words, someone heard something that set the NFL grapevine a blaze.

According to cbssports.com, Savage is the ninth-ranked quarterback in this Draft and while pundits like Todd McShay have Savage at the top of the second round, he will need some time to develop. That is where the Jaguars may come into this picture.

With a name like Savage, that has all the "warrior" meaning and its potential to bolster marketing sales and promotions, can't you see how the Jaguars could benefit on and off the field from drafting a player on the rise like this?

The draft report on Savage paints a picture for what the team needs - a leader of the future. Savage's college career opened at Rutgers in 2009 - a true freeman season in which he was named the Scarlet Knights' most valuable offensive player - but he left for Arizona in 2011 after sitting most of 2010. However, he transferred again -- to Pitt -- in 2012 and sat out his second transfer season.

Savage is big with a cannon for an arm, shows nice accuracy to all areas of the field and despite his inexperience, exhibits strong pocket presence and poise. Look for Savage to ascend draft boards if he convinces teams his well-traveled college days weren't an indication of a lack of commitment. His upside could be huge.

Personally, I love the idea. While the Jaguars may look at two passers in the Draft or may not look until the third round to develop a future leader, it would appear Savage, who may have the best arm in this selection pool, would look best in Black and Teal.

Jags Sending a Message with Draft Visitors

Apr 11, 2014 -- 10:57am

By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)

What the Jaguars can't do right now is ease off the gas peddle. Solid free agent moves and the possibility of adding Alex Mack next week means this is a team that went from having a "modest" free agent class to becoming a major player in offseason wheeling and dealing.

Regardless of what happens with Mack, the significant improvements in the team, the roster and the culture of the franchise has Jacksonville - which was the laughing stock of NFL media for the first eight weeks of the season - being talked about as a team on the NFL media's radar.

Because the team opened its doors to what seems to be the entire draft class this week, we can glean a few things by what transpired at EverBank Field.

First - The Jaguars are either sending huge smoke screens to the other 31 teams or they are no more set on one player in the third slot of the NFL Draft.

Second - Having Greg Robinson visit shows this is still a team concerned about its offensive line. While there were some that thought my blog on choosing a tackle was completely off, adding Robinson - with Mack at center - now makes the offensive line the best unit on the team.

Third - Jimmy Garoppolo and Zach Mettenberger could be in play at the back of the first and second round. Also, the team could decide that none of the six passers they looked at were in the team's future plans.

Fourth - Who is this Tom Savage dude, anyway?

There really isn't a loser in this process. While the Jaguars are in a position that could backfire on them if their two top picks are gone, there is still plenty of talent to stand pat or trade down. And no, I think there will be other teams that trade up (Oakland, Atlanta) before Jacksonville blinks.

In the end, as long as Dave Caldwell and Gus Bradley continue to make the moves they are making it becomes even  harder for other organizations to beat them at this chess game.

Jaguars Continue to Search for an Identity

Apr 10, 2014 -- 10:37am

By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)

Even with all the free agent signings in recent weeks the Jaguars are still looking for an identity. Making moves to improve the roster has been a huge part of the offseason – one that now makes the Jaguars look like a team that is secure in its quest to challenge for a playoff berth in 2014.

But if you look at the list of players – starters and reserves – no one stands out and screams “I am a star.” Maybe Paul Pozluszny comes close and maybe if the team retains the services of Justin Blackmon and he saves his career with 50 catches in eight games. But looking at the talent which si pretty decent right now, you could argue this roster is still pretty vanilla.

Zane Beadles won’t sell tickets in EverBank Field. Defensive linemen are “sexy” picks in the draft, but unless they are Bruce Smith. JJ Watt or Reggie White, they are just stat machines. Receivers are great, but Jerry Rice does not play on every team and when was the last time you rooted for your kicker rather than your quarterback. OK, maybe a bad analogy. Let’s continue, shall well.

It’s sad to say, but the management of this franchise really the face of the organization. We know Shad Khan is one of the more enlightening, more vibrant owners in the NFL, take a lesson in how not to be Jerry Jones or Daniel Snyder or the Mara’s of the league. He is engaging and speaks his mind, but is also someone who wants to be a part of it all, including the fan interaction with his “team”.

Then you have Gus Bradley, who may be the best upstart coach in this league. Bradley’s infectious attitude, smile and the way he carries himself makes everyone want to play for him. That is the season the offseason was successful, everyone wanted to get “on the bus” so to speak.

And it is all said and done, Dave Caldwell was the right choice for general manager, is quiet and walks with a big stick. He does his job and players and NFL personnel know he works to win.

If the Jaguars must endure another season of growth and building, take comfort in this brain trust is more than three heads working as one. They are connected at the hip, want to prove they can build a winner and have started the process of bringing in the talent needed to make that happen. So, as a fan, really don’t mind someone like Bradley or Khan being the one person we think of when we talk about Jacksonville. Those kinds of building blocks are ones you can stack together one at a time and still come out looking like a winner.

Jaguars Draft Will Not Be Made or Broken with First Pick

Apr 09, 2014 -- 7:37am

By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)

The Jacksonville Jaguars are about to meet with several college superstars who could be playing ball in 2014 right here in EverBank Field. While the team cannot go wrong selecting from a talent pool that includes Johnny Manziel, Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack and others, it appears to me that the real importance of this NFL Draft lies in the second and third picks this team will make. With 11 choices already on the books and the potential for more to be obtained, we really do not know what the team is planning to do until the card is read by Commissioner Roger Goodell at the podium.
 
But, like I said, the second and third choice will be the most impactful on the 2014 season.
 
Even with the buzz that will be created with Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater coming to EverBank Field, I still say neither – unless Bridgewater falls to the back end of the first round – will be in a Jaguars uniform this year. This makes visits by Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois and LSU’s Zach Mettenberger that much more important. And for all we know, there could be others this team targets as a middle round pick to groom (Stephen Morris, Tom Savage, Connor Shaw).
 
This is the kind of draft – with a plethora of talent and no true defined top overall pick – the Jaguars could get pretty good in a hurry. It reminds me of Drafts in the early 1990s where depth was key without a lot of superstar talent.
 
I can also remember a conversation in 1996 I had with Frank Frangie over the depth of the Draft and the fact we really did not know where the Jaguars would go with their first pick. While they selected Kevin Hardy, there was plenty of speculation the team could go in several directions. While Hacker claims Dan Hicken gave him his start in the business, Frank did the same thing for me with radio and The Draft.
 
I remember telling Frank NFL Drafts are not made by first round picks, rather the later round picks teams “score” with. The team has done will in the past finding a Cecil Shorts or Damon Jones or even someone like Tom McManus – who wasn’t drafted at all. The point Frank and I both agreed on is depth in the draft defines a team, not its first overall choice.
 
This season, we all expect Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell to duplicate his success of 2013 and he may very well do that. But unless he finds those Richard Shermans and Vontaze Burficts of the NFL, this team will not follow the path to greatness. It cannot rely on the first pick to pick this team up, rather the entire class to make the impression.
 
And in that class, continue to prove that a conversation held 18 years ago still holds true.
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