Jaguars, Falcons each looking to improve pass rush for the 2010 seasonBy George Henry, AP
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Jaguars, Falcons try to improve pass rushing
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard moved his offense easily through the Atlanta Falcons’ defense.
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan was just as impressive against the Jaguars’ defense, and Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio could not turn away.
Maybe Ryan and Garrard were just having good practices. Maybe the Jaguars’ and Falcons’ defenses will improve this season.
Or maybe both teams are still trying to solve some of the problems that kept Jacksonville and Atlanta out of the playoffs last season.
Del Rio didn’t know that Garrard completed all of his passes in red zone drills because he was watching the Jaguars’ defense on another field.
“Glad to hear that,” Del Rio said. “I didn’t get a look over there. We were spending a lot of time over here dealing with Matt Ryan.”
Falcons coach Mike Smith thought his run defense was solid, but there are still too many gaps in zone coverage, and some players are too slow in their route progressions.
“We’ve been seeing the same type of routes from our offense for 31 practices and we’ve seen some different ones here over the last day and a half,” Smith said. “I think it’s good for us. Not only does it stimulate our players, but it stimulates our coaches in terms of how we’ve got to get our guys ready to go.”
Jacksonville and Atlanta ranked among the worst pass defenses last season. The Jaguars’ 14 sacks were a league low. Opponents completed 67.6 percent of their passes, second-highest in the NFL.
The Falcons allowed 55 completions of 20 or more yards, second-most in the NFC and fifth overall. Atlanta’s run and pass defense combined gave up the league’s highest percentage on third down at 45.3 percent.
Both the Jaguars and Falcons have attempted to upgrade their defensive lines over the past two offseasons.
Atlanta drafted tackle Peria Jerry 24th overall last year and chose Corey Peters in the third round this year. Jerry, however, has missed much of training camp after sitting out 15 games with a knee injury last year.
Jacksonville picked tackle Tyson Alualu 10th overall and used a third-round spot to take tackle D’Anthony Smith. However, Smith might not take a snap this season after an Achilles’ injury last week.
The Falcons and Jaguars also acquired help at linebacker to improve their coverage of curl routes, screens and other short passing attempts that can hurt a defense.
Atlanta drafted outside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon 19th overall, and it will be no surprise if starts the season opener at Pittsburgh. Weatherspoon has impressed Falcons coaches since camp started.
Jacksonville traded a fourth-round pick to Oakland for middle linebacker Kirk Morrison. His arrival allowed Daryl Smith to stay outside where the Jaguars can use his speed off the edge.
The right end spots for Atlanta and Jacksonville will be critical in creating pressure in the pocket. John Abraham of the Falcons is coming off his lowest sack total (5½) in the six seasons he’s been healthy enough to play 16 games.
Aaron Kampman, who signed as a free agent with Jacksonville in the spring, left a Green Bay defense that had switched to a 3-4 front and moved him to outside linebacker in 2009. He tore a knee ligament, suffered a concussion and finished with 3½ sacks, his lowest in four years.
Del Rio believes Kampman can help left end Derrick Harvey become the force the Jags envisioned when they drafted him No. 8 overall two years ago.
“This is a guy that wants to lead by example,” Del Rio said of Kampman. “He wants to lead it in talking and challenging the guys when he needs to, but he’s going to provide the example in how he does things.”
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