JACKSONVILLE - He's versatile and experienced. Those are reasons Cassius Marsh and the Jaguars made sense, and it was versatility he emphasized this week while videoconferencing with local media.
"I'm skilled at a lot of different things," Marsh said late Thursday afternoon.
Marsh, a seven-year veteran linebacker who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent in March, went on to list those things. Pass rushing. Pass coverage Setting the edge against the run. Awareness. A nose for the ball. High motor.
"You'll see me all over the field," Marsh said.
That's a positive for the Jaguars. While they long have employed a 4-3 defense in base schemes, a strong possibility exists for more 3-4 looks in those situations this season. A particular focus this offseason has been versatility on the defensive front.
Marsh, who spent 2014-2016 in a similar defensive system with Seattle, said he will play the team's "Sam" - or strong-side linebacker - position and work to earn a starting position there. Whereas last year's starting strong-side linebacker, Leon Jacobs, typically came off the field in passing situations, Marsh can rush the passer on third downs.
"I think it is a great opportunity and it is a great defense," Marsh said. "Whatever knowledge that I have that I feel like can help guys, I am always open to sharing it and helping whoever needs help. I am looking forward to getting out there and getting to know my teammates better.
"There's a lot that I feel like I can bring to the team. I look forward to showcasing that to the guys on the team first and foremost, my teammates and my coaches and then the fans when I get a chance."
Marsh has registered 14 sacks in six seasons with the Seahawks, New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers and this past season the Arizona Cardinals.
We spent time early this week focused on new Jaguars running back Chris Thompson's thoughts on new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's offense, with Thompson - who played for Gruden when the latter was the head coach of the Washington Redskins - saying players must know multiple positions to take advantage of Gruden's ability to create mismatches. Thompson, who played collegiately at Florida State and who played with Washington from 2013 until signing as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, also said it's "big-time" to be playing in Florida again. "I am super-excited about that, and then my family is an hour-and-a-half away now, so they will be able to come and watch me play and be able to spend some more time with me than they have been able to the past seven years," said Thompson, who played at Madison County (Fla.) High School. Thompson called himself a "lead-by-example" player and expects to help the running backs understand "how to be a pro and how important consistency is. That's the only thing. I'm just coming in here and just trying to help these guys with that part and any questions that they have. I'm in a situation where I know this offense pretty well, so being able to help these guys get an understanding of the offense as I know it and just on the field being able to help however I can. ... Physically, everybody has what they have. You are what you are. But on the mental aspect, just how to approach the game, how to approach every single day and that's pretty much it."
A CHALLENGING TIME
Marcus Pollard likes what he sees from the Jaguars' rookie class. "These guys are definitely, in my opinion, putting their best foot forward," said Pollard, who as the Jaguars' director of player engagement and youth football spends as much time as anyone in the organization with young players. For Pollard, that has meant a lot of time spent video conferencing and Zooming with a 30-player class that marks one of the largest rookie classes in franchise history. "It's been a huge challenge, but I think the rookies - like everything else - they accepted the challenge," Pollard said of the class spending their rookie offseasons in virtual mode because of COVID-19. "We've spent a lot of time doing these sorts of calls - Zoom calls - spending some time facetiming. It's tough, but you have to find a way to be creative connecting with those guys. But I think we've done a pretty fair job between the coaching staff, myself, public relations - everybody within the organization." Pollard, who played 14 NFL seasons, added: "They're trying to learn the system, trying to interact with coaches, trying to ask the right questions. When you hear young guys asking questions, that's always positive. And all these guys are asking great questions to their position coaches."