By Howard Balzer
It's easy to see why the Jacksonville Jaguars and new head coach Gus Bradley are in pursuit of a game-changer at defensive end.
Jeremy Mincey led the team with a microscopic total of three sacks last season, a figure that was halved by late-season acquisition Jason Babin, who had 1 1/2 sacks in the five games he started after being claimed off waivers from the Philadelphia Eagles Nov. 28.
In contrast, the Seattle Seahawks, where Bradley was the defensive coordinator last season, got 19 1/2 combined sacks from ends Chris Clemons (11 1/2) and rookie Bruce Irvin (8).
Bradley will bring his scheme to Jacksonville, and it's clear he will be looking for a certain type of player who could end up being the second overall pick in the draft.
It's called the "Leo" end, players that some teams view as outside linebackers.
"We had some success in Seattle with them -- with Chris Clemons, with Bruce Irvin so we'll take a hard look at the outside linebacker types in the draft," Bradley said at the scouting combine. "We can see them work out with the linebackers and defensive line and we'll pay particularly close attention to that."
Asked the ideal measureables for "Leo" players, Bradley mentioned Clemons again, and specifically said guys around 6-foot-3, 250 pounds with 40-yard times in the 4.5-4.6 range.
Clemons is listed as 6-foot-3, 254, while Irvin is 6-foot-3, 248.
Two players in this year's draft could fit the bill; both are rated in the top five overall players by NFLDraftScout.com: Florida State's Bjoern Werner (6-foot-4, 256) and Damontre Moore of Texas A&M (6-foot-4, 250).
"It needs to be somebody who has good speed," said Bradley. "A guy like Chris Clemons. Not to talk about another team's personnel but that type of individual who is maybe 6-3, 250 pounds and can run a 4.5, 4.6. Some teams may consider that a linebacker-type. We'll try and take a look at them and say, 'Hey, can he play that Leo end spot?'"
Whether it begins with the No. 2 overall pick, it's clear upgrading the league's worst pass rush in 2012 is a priority for Bradley throughout the draft.
"We have some good players and some unique talents," he said of the current roster. "We're going to incorporate them but we also have a philosophy that we'll eventually get to and that's getting those ends on the perimeter that can rush, not only on first and second down but third down as well."
Speed was the overriding theme of Bradley's media session. He saw the success of a quarterback who can run the read-option like Seattle's Russell Wilson, and Bradley views speed as the critical component in defending against the new trend.
Teams also need press corners who can handle man coverage and allow the rest of the defense to focus on containing athletic quarterbacks.
"It started off (in Seattle) with having really good coverage corners, guys who can play press and obviously at the defensive end spot, guys who can run," said Bradley. "That's so important in our philosophy -- you need a defense built around speed. The corners that press, it allows you to bring an extra player into the box to account for all the different option aspects and that's critical."
Bradley said there will be an open competition at every spot on the roster, and that includes with quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
"I think he'll respond very well," said Bradley. "It's hard because the only conversations we've had have been really general right now. We've tried to form our own opinion of Blaine by watching tape and until we get a chance to watch him on the practice field, we're going to be excited about that. Thus far, our conversations at a personal level have been tremendous."