NFL draft: Jaguars use draft to beef up D-line, pass rush
By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Just about every move the Jacksonville Jaguars have made this offseason has been to improve a pathetic pass rush.
They signed free agent defensive end Aaron Kampman, released aging defensive lineman Rob Meier and traded underachieving defensive end Quentin Groves. The draft brought even more activity along the defensive front.
A day after selecting California defensive tackle Tyson Alualu with the 10th pick, the Jaguars chose 304-pound tackle D'Anthony Smith in the third round with the 74th overall pick Friday night. Both picks should help Jacksonville beef up a defense that finished with a franchise-low and NFL-worst 14 sacks in 2009.
"We don't have enough guys winning 1-on-1 up front," general manager Gene Smith said. "You can't always manufacture pressure all the time. You've got to get guys that can win 1-on-1 in contested situations. We didn't do that enough last year. ... You certainly have to have depth at that position if you want to compete at the highest level."
Jacksonville tried to trade into the second round and draft Penn State middle linebacker Sean Lee. They spoke with Philadelphia about packaging some picks in exchange for the 55th overall selection. But the Eagles ended up trading with NFC East rival Dallas, who took Lee.
"We aggressively worked the phone as he started to slide," Gene Smith said. "We were unfortunate that they chose to go a different direction, which was surprising."
Seemingly stuck in the third round, the Jaguars settled for Smith.
He started 44 of 49 games at Louisiana Tech and finished had 197 tackles and 12.5 sacks. But he had just 3.5 sacks as a senior, numbers that had many questioning his consistency and commitment.
"Mr. Smith, he called me a couple of weeks back. I guess he was trying to see where my heart was in the game," D'Anthony Smith said. "I pretty much told him how I felt about it and my desire to play the game. I guess he liked what I said. ... I feel like I'm a good competitor. I don't think I'm inconsistent."
The addition of the two defensive tackles makes two-time Pro Bowler John Henderson even more expendable. Gene Smith said several teams called about Henderson, whose production and commitment seemed to slip in recent years, but they wanted to wait to see what happened in Friday night's draft before making a move.
Smith said those teams drafted defensive tackles, making it uncertain whether the team will be able to unload the 6-foot-7, 335-pound former first-round pick. Smith said he would continue to listen to offers.
"We'll have a better idea tonight and tomorrow," Smith said.
Jacksonville believes it already has improved its defensive front. Alualu and D'Anthony Smith teamed together at the Senior Bowl and will reunite next weekend for the team's three-day minicamp.
"Seeing that I already know the guy, I already have a good vibe about him," Smith said. "I can come in and learn with this cat just like he can learn with me. I look forward to the experience. ... It's great healthy competition. I look forward to it."