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Gene Frenette: Jaguars plenty comfortable with their safety valve

The Florida Times-Union logo The Florida Times-Union 7/26/2019 By Gene Frenette, The Florida Times-Union

It's certainly fair to wonder, given the collective starting experience of Ronnie Harrison and Jarrod Wilson is a combined 10 games, whether the Jaguars' safety position might be a liability in 2019.

But Joe Danna, who was elevated from assistant safeties coach to replace Perry Fewell, isn't nearly as worried as outsiders about the back end of the Jaguars' defense. He thinks the young safeties will hold up just fine after the departure of popular veteran Tashaun Gipson, a salary-cap casualty now employed by the rival Houston Texans.

"No doubt, Gip was a very good player and a great personality that we'll definitely miss," Danna said after Friday's practice. "But I'm really excited about what we've got. Those two players [Harrison, Wilson] have plenty of strengths to build on."

Gipson, in addition to being the secondary's vocal leader, did a commendable job covering tight ends. He neutralized the New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski (2 catches, 15 yards) and the Philadelphia Eagles' Zach Ertz (4 catches, 26 yards) as well as anybody last season. The Jaguars are confident Harrison and Wilson, both athletic and 6-foot-2, have the range and toughness to handle that responsibility.

"[Covering the tight end], that's a strength of theirs," Danna said. "They have that length you love and the athleticism. I can see both of them sharing that role."

Success at safety will depend on pass-rush production, an area where the Jaguars dropped from 55 sacks in 2017 to 37 last season. The big issue with Harrison and Wilson is whether they can remain consistently strong in their first NFL season as full-time starters.

Staying healthy is paramount because the depth behind them is suspect. Without Gipson, what the Jaguars safeties need is a defensive front that makes their job easier by disrupting the quarterback. . . .

The NFL Players Association is already trying to prepare its union members for an owner lockout in 2021, putting out a memo to agents Thursday that outlined a series of financial tips for their clients, an NFL player source told me.

Among the top recommendations was for players to save 50 percent of their net salaries after taxes in 2019 and 2020. In case of a lockout, the NFLPA doesn't want the union caving to owners like it did in 2011 because many players feared the loss of income was too much to handle. . . .

Did you see where Oakland Raiders receiver Antonio Brown decided to one-up Jaguars' cornerback Jalen Ramsey on stylish training camp entrances by arriving in a hot-air balloon? You know what that means, right? Ramsey might parachute into camp next year. . . .

It appears Bartram Trail product Joey Gatewood, a redshirt freshman, will be in a tight battle with true freshman Bo Nix for the starting quarterback job at Auburn. If Gatewood gets the nod for the October 5 game against Florida, he'd be the first opposing QB from the Jacksonville area to start at Florida Field since Sandalwood product Rusty Smith threw for 290 yards for Florida Atlantic in a 59-20 loss in 2007. . . .

Shedeur Sanders, a 3-star, dual-threat quarterback in the 2021 class from Cedar Hill, Tx., already has scholarship offers from Georgia, Florida, Alabama and LSU, but many think his visit to Florida State this weekend for Saturday Night Live might push the Seminoles to the front of the line. That's because his father is NFL Hall of Famer and ex-FSU cornerback Deion Sanders.

Nothing is etched in stone yet. Shedeur's older brother and high school teammate, cornerback Shilo Sanders, who visited with Ramsey after practice Friday, did spurn FSU for South Carolina. . . .

Regardless of what the medal haul at the World Championships in South Korea winds up being for Clay High product Caleb Dressel, his world-record swim of 49.50 seconds Friday in the semifinal heat of the 100 butterfly – breaking Michael Phelps' mark by .32 of a second – was as impressive as anything else on his glittering resume. He was a full body length ahead of the competition in no time and never stepped off the gas. . . .

Since leaving the University of North Florida as the best all-around player in school history, point guard Dallas Moore has been a standout performer the past two seasons for teams in Italy. The UNF star, who averaged 15.9 points and shot 40 percent from three-point range last year for Fiat TO, recently signed a new deal to play for Nanterre 92 of the Elite ProA league in France. . . .

Not only is former Jacksonville Sun Christian Yelich making a strong bid to repeat as National League MVP, but he has the rare distinction of leading the NL in home runs (35) and stolen bases (23). In MLB history, the only player in either league to pull off that double feat was the Philadelphia Phillies' Chuck Klein in 1932 when he had 38 HRs and 20 steals. . . .

After four years at WJXT-Channel 4 as a sports anchor/reporter, Brian Jackson has left to become a morning news anchor (7-9 a.m.) for the ABC affiliate, WTXL, in Tallahassee. Replacing Jackson is Jamal St. Cyr, a New Orleans native who had been a sports reporter in Chattanooga. . . .

With Shane Lowry's six-shot victory at the British Open, that makes 25 first-time winners at majors since 2010, the most in any decade since a full schedule of 40 majors began being played in the 1950s. The previous high was 22 in the 1990s. It's another reason why Tiger Woods, at 43, has such a difficult task in trying to win three more majors to tie Jack Nicklaus' record of 18. When good players get hot over four days, they can be tougher to beat than the world's best. . . .

I've got two words for anyone who thinks it's a lock for Brooks Koepka to continue his fabulous run in majors over the next five years: Rory McIlroy. He won four majors from 2011-14, but has since gone 0-for-20 with five missed cuts.

gfrenette@jacksonville.com: (904) 359-4540

It's certainly fair to wonder, given the collective starting experience of Ronnie Harrison and Jarrod Wilson is a combined 10 games, whether the Jaguars' safety position might be a liability in 2019.

But Joe Danna, who was elevated from assistant safeties coach to replace Perry Fewell, isn't nearly as worried as outsiders about the back end of the Jaguars' defense. He thinks the young safeties will hold up just fine after the departure of popular veteran Tashaun Gipson, a salary-cap casualty now employed by the rival Houston Texans.

"No doubt, Gip was a very good player and a great personality that we'll definitely miss," Danna said after Friday's practice. "But I'm really excited about what we've got. Those two players [Harrison, Wilson] have plenty of strengths to build on."

Gipson, in addition to being the secondary's vocal leader, did a commendable job covering tight ends. He neutralized the New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski (2 catches, 15 yards) and the Philadelphia Eagles' Zach Ertz (4 catches, 26 yards) as well as anybody last season. The Jaguars are confident Harrison and Wilson, both athletic and 6-foot-2, have the range and toughness to handle that responsibility.

"[Covering the tight end], that's a strength of theirs," Danna said. "They have that length you love and the athleticism. I can see both of them sharing that role."

Success at safety will depend on pass-rush production, an area where the Jaguars dropped from 55 sacks in 2017 to 37 last season. The big issue with Harrison and Wilson is whether they can remain consistently strong in their first NFL season as full-time starters.

Staying healthy is paramount because the depth behind them is suspect. Without Gipson, what the Jaguars safeties need is a defensive front that makes their job easier by disrupting the quarterback. . . .

The NFL Players Association is already trying to prepare its union members for an owner lockout in 2021, putting out a memo to agents Thursday that outlined a series of financial tips for their clients, an NFL player source told me.

Among the top recommendations was for players to save 50 percent of their net salaries after taxes in 2019 and 2020. In case of a lockout, the NFLPA doesn't want the union caving to owners like it did in 2011 because many players feared the loss of income was too much to handle. . . .

Did you see where Oakland Raiders receiver Antonio Brown decided to one-up Jaguars' cornerback Jalen Ramsey on stylish training camp entrances by arriving in a hot-air balloon? You know what that means, right? Ramsey might parachute into camp next year. . . .

It appears Bartram Trail product Joey Gatewood, a redshirt freshman, will be in a tight battle with true freshman Bo Nix for the starting quarterback job at Auburn. If Gatewood gets the nod for the October 5 game against Florida, he'd be the first opposing QB from the Jacksonville area to start at Florida Field since Sandalwood product Rusty Smith threw for 290 yards for Florida Atlantic in a 59-20 loss in 2007. . . .

Shedeur Sanders, a 3-star, dual-threat quarterback in the 2021 class from Cedar Hill, Tx., already has scholarship offers from Georgia, Florida, Alabama and LSU, but many think his visit to Florida State this weekend for Saturday Night Live might push the Seminoles to the front of the line. That's because his father is NFL Hall of Famer and ex-FSU cornerback Deion Sanders.

Nothing is etched in stone yet. Shedeur's older brother and high school teammate, cornerback Shilo, who visited with Ramsey after practice Friday, did spurn FSU for South Carolina. . . .

Regardless of what the medal haul at the World Championships in South Korea winds up being for Clay High product Caleb Dressel, his world-record swim of 49.50 seconds Friday in the semifinal heat of the 100 butterfly – breaking Michael Phelps' mark by .32 of a second – was as impressive as anything else on his glittering resume. He was a full body length ahead of the competition in no time and never stepped off the gas. . . .

Since leaving the University of North Florida as the best all-around player in school history, point guard Dallas Moore has been a standout performer the past two seasons for teams in Italy. The UNF star, who averaged 15.9 points and shot 40 percent from three-point range last year for Fiat TO, recently signed a new deal to play for Nanterre 92 of the Elite ProA league in France. . . .

Not only is former Jacksonville Sun Christian Yelich making a strong bid to repeat as National League MVP, but he has the rare distinction of leading the NL in home runs (35) and stolen bases (23). In MLB history, the only player in either league to pull off that double feat was the Philadelphia Phillies' Chuck Klein in 1932 when he had 38 HRs and 20 steals. . . .

After four years at WJXT-Channel 4 as a sports anchor/reporter, Brian Jackson has left to become a morning news anchor (7-9 a.m.) for the ABC affiliate, WTXL, in Tallahassee. Replacing Jackson is Jamal St. Cyr, a New Orleans native who had been a sports reporter in Chattanooga. . . .

With Shane Lowry's six-shot victory at the British Open, that makes 25 first-time winners at majors since 2010, the most in any decade since a full schedule of 40 majors began being played in the 1950s. The previous high was 22 in the 1990s. It's another reason why Tiger Woods, at 43, has such a difficult task in trying to win three more majors to tie Jack Nicklaus' record of 18. . . .

I've got two words for anyone who thinks it's a lock for Brooks Koepka to continue his fabulous run in majors over the next five years: Rory McIlroy. He won four majors from 2011-14, but has since gone 0-for-20 with five missed cuts.

gfrenette@jacksonville.com: (904) 359-4540

———

©2019 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.)

Visit The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.) at www.jacksonville.com

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