by Cole Pepper
When last season began, the Jaguars starting cornerbacks were Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox. Neither are still with the team.
Aaron Ross was expected to serve as the nickle corner. He’s not longer with the team.
Backups included Will Middleton, Kevin Rutland and Mike Harris.
Of those top six corners, only Rutland and Harris are back for 2013. No position saw as much turnover from the Gene Smith-era to the first year of the Dave Caldwell regime.
So who starts in 2013? Using mini-camp as a guide, it would appear that defensive coordinator Bob Babich will go with one corner with a lot of experience in the Jaguars defense and one with no experience in the NFL. Former Seattle Seahawks Marcus Trufant on one side, and rookie third round pick Dwayne Gratz on the other.
Trufant’s best years may be behind him, but he bring experience in this defense. He played under Gus Bradley when Bradley was the defensive coordinator of the Seahawks. Hi familiarity with the scheme will be invaluable in the early stages of the season. He could be pushed by free agent acquisition Alan Ball. Ball signed as a free agent this off-season after one season in Houston. He has only been a starter for one year in his career (2010 with the Cowboys). His reputation is more of a physical corner than a ball hawk, he has only three career interceptions.
On the other side, watching Gratz in mini-camp, you can immediately see what the Jaguars scouts liked about him. He’s smooth, quick and athletic. That doesn’t always translate into being a great corner, but the former UConn star seems on track to start from day 1.
Who fits in after that? If Trufant beats out Ball to start, Ball could play nickle, although second year man Mike Harris looked good in that role at the end of last year. Kevin Rutland is also back. Speed is his best asset. And then there’s Antwon Blake, who was a rising star on special teams. That’s likely to be where he makes his largest impact.
In addition to Gratz, the Jaguars spend a pair of seventh round picks on corners. New Mexico State’s Jeremy Harris and Demetrius McCray from Appalachian State will both have a chance to make the team, but to do so, they will likely have to unseat Mike Harris, Rutland or Blake and its most likely that they would have to shine on special team to make the cut.
In any case, the corners, and the defensive backfield as a whole, will have a much different look for the Jaguars. After giving up nearly seven yards per attempt to opposing passers, that’s a good thing.