Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sacks Leader Last Season Sent Packing; in Numbers Game, Jags Choose Younger Options over Babin

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sacks Leader Last Season Sent Packing; in Numbers Game, Jags Choose Younger Options over Babin

Article excerpt

Byline: Hays Carlyon and Ryan O'Halloran

The Jaguars made their biggest statement in terms of how their defensive line depth has increased this offseason.

They cut Jason Babin.

The Jaguars released the veteran defensive end Thursday morning prior to the final minicamp practice. The 34-year-old Babin led the Jaguars in sacks last season with 7.5 and has recorded 62.5 in his 10-year career. He joined the Jaguars on Nov. 28, 2012, when he was claimed off waivers after being cut by Philadelphia.

"Jason has been great for us and it wasn't an easy decision," Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell said. "It was something we felt like would probably be better to do now instead of the first, second or third week of training camp. He still has something left in the tank. We just felt like that some of these other guys need the reps."

Jaguars coach Gus Bradley also lauded Babin's leadership and work ethic. The Jaguars re-signed Babin in March to a three-year, $8.2 million contract, of which $500,000 was guaranteed.

"He's a big part of what we're building here and always will be," Bradley said. "I learned a great deal from him and appreciate all his efforts. It's a tough business and a tough situation. We respect him greatly as a person and as a player."

The message was clear in letting Babin walk. There are young players ready to emerge to lead the Jaguars out of their sack doldrums. The defense was last in the league in sacks last season.

"We had to ask some tough questions about eventually the 53 guys that are going to be up on Sundays," Bradley said.

The Leo position will still be led by a veteran. In March, the Jaguars signed Chris Clemons, who at 32 is now the oldest player on the roster. Clemons has recorded 58 sacks in his career and shined in Bradley's scheme in Seattle.

The Jaguars also have third-year veteran Andre Branch, who had six sacks last season and has drawn praise in the offseason.

A trio of young players: Ryan Davis, fifth-round rookie Chris Smith and Gerald Rivers round out the Leo rotation.

"We're heavy at that position right now," Caldwell said. "To see Chris Smith and Ryan Davis come along and Gerald Rivers is more of a Leo to go with [Branch] and [Clemons] - we feel we have a good situation and a lot of competition."

Bradley will mold the group further when training camp opens July 24. Having Babin out of the equation means more reps for the younger players.

Davis, 25, played in seven games last season after being promoted from the practice squad. He's one reason why top pick Jadeveon Clowney is now in Houston. Davis made two crucial plays in both Jaguars victories over the Texans last season. He intercepted a pass in the final minute in the first meeting and recorded a sack that ended the rematch. …

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