Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hayes Thankful for a Chance; Veteran Linebacker Welcomes Expected Competition for Playing Time

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hayes Thankful for a Chance; Veteran Linebacker Welcomes Expected Competition for Playing Time

Article excerpt

Byline: Ryan O'Halloran

As six linebackers came off the board in the second round of last month's NFL Draft, some earlier than expected, it became apparent Geno Hayes would not face additional competition to win a starting position on the Jaguars' defense.

Not that Hayes was glued to his television watching the proceedings.

"I'm not one of those guys who are big on paying attention to what they bring in," he said. "I've been around for a while and it's more about competing with myself."

Competing with himself ... and several others.

The list includes Julian Stanford, who last year went from undrafted to starter, maybe a rookie like LaRoy Reynolds or Jeremiah Green and possibly somebody who isn't on the roster yet.

The outside linebacker spot Hayes is working at is a completely wide-open derby entering training camp.

Hayes' goal is to become an every-week starter like he was in Tampa Bay from 2009-11, when he made a combined 42 starts and totaled 197 tackles.

The first free-agent addition by the Jaguars - he signed a two-year, $1.95 million contract on March 14 - Hayes realizes what's available.

"It's huge; I'm very blessed for this opportunity," he said last week after the Jaguars' third organized team activity workout. "I just have to take advantage of it. It's right there for the taking."

Hayes played his rookie year in Tampa Bay (2008) for current Jaguars coach Gus Bradley. He played his only season for Chicago (2012) for current Jaguars defensive coordinator Bob Babich.

But ...

"It's a lot different because it's a different atmosphere - [Bradley] is now the head coach and Bob is now the defensive coordinator," Hayes said. "And the terminology is different coming from Seattle and Chicago and then adding things here in Jacksonville."

Hayes' connection to Bradley and Babich and familiarity with their defensive philosophy provided him with this chance, though.

"He knew there was an opportunity here and he needs to continue to progress," Bradley said. "He's done a solid job, I would say, up to this point. Our expectation is more. …

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