Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Is Defensive End Still on Jags' Menu? Team Addressed Position in Free Agency; Oklahoma's Cody May Be Tempting Anyway

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Is Defensive End Still on Jags' Menu? Team Addressed Position in Free Agency; Oklahoma's Cody May Be Tempting Anyway

Article excerpt

Byline: BART HUBBUCH, The Times-Union

The Jaguars spent $10 million on Reggie Hayward, added former Pro Bowl pick Marcellus Wiley and will get four defensive ends back from injured reserve this fall after notching more sacks last season than they had since 2001.

Despite that flurry of moves, the talent available at end in this weekend's NFL Draft still could prove too tempting for Jacksonville to pass up.

"Pass-rushing defensive ends are always hard to come by in this league, and this is a good year for them,'' Buffalo Bills general manager Tom Donahoe said at the scouting combine. "That's an intriguing combination."

Oklahoma's Dan Cody may be the highest-ranked defensive end still available when the Jaguars pick 21st overall on Saturday, although Cody has a difficult past that is prompting split opinions on him among NFL teams.

Cody's best attributes are his quickness and his determination, which he showed by rarely -- if ever -- taking a play off. Big 12 coaches rewarded him by making Cody a unanimous first-team all-Big 12 conference pick each of the past two seasons.

Conversely, NFL teams have questions about Cody because he missed the entire 2002 season for treatment of clinical depression.

"I don't know exactly what triggered it,'' Cody said at the combine. "The death of my grandma in my family a few months before that, I think could have easily triggered it. I feel like it's something that has been conquered.''

Some scouting services have the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Cody as the highest-ranked end, but they are in the minority. Most peg him in the middle of a very large pack of ends expected to go in the first round.

Heading the group is Wisconsin's Erasmus James, a prolific pass rusher in college whose only drawback is his health. James missed large amounts of time with hip and ankle injuries, and some clubs question his durability.

David Pollack of Georgia was more productive than James, particularly last season when he swept several awards (including Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year), but scouts also have questions about him.

Though Pollack recorded 12 1/2 sacks and 17 1/2 tackles for lost yardage last year, and set the school record with 36 career sacks, questions center on his lack of a signature pass-rush move. That could hurt him going against top-notch offensive tackles in the NFL.

Maryland's Shawne Merriman is another premier rusher who played end in college but is slated by most scouts to play linebacker in the NFL, especially in a 3-4 defensive alignment that several clubs are expected to use this fall.

Aside from Cody, all of those prospects may be off the board when the Jaguars' turn comes, as should LSU's Marcus Spears.

Hayward, the Jaguars' marquee offseason signing, comes from Denver and will start on the right side, while Paul Spicer and Wiley will contend for the left-side spot with competition from Bobby McCray. …

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