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Gene Frenette: Jaguars CB Dwayne Gratz can develop into difference-maker

Posted: August 16, 2014 - 8:34am  |  Updated: August 16, 2014 - 9:36am
Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Dwayne Gratz (27) runs onto the filed during an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, in Cleveland. Jacksonville won 32-28.  Times-Union file
Times-Union file
Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Dwayne Gratz (27) runs onto the filed during an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, in Cleveland. Jacksonville won 32-28.

Aside from the expected buzz about Jaguars rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, a young player on defense appears to be making significant progress at becoming a difference-maker: Dwayne Gratz.

The second-year cornerback looks like he has the instincts/physicality to be a run-stopper and generate turnovers, something that’s a huge point of emphasis for coach Gus Bradley. When the Jaguars drafted Gratz in the third round last year, some wondered about not taking the other starting cornerback at Connecticut, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who went eight picks later to the Tennessee Titans. Bradley felt Gratz was a better fit for his press-coverage scheme because of his mental toughness and being more “stout” at 5-11, 201 pounds.

“To play our style in press [coverage], it takes a certain type of mentality to play that,” Bradley said. “He has the toughness, the mind-set, to do it play after play.”

In Thursday’s preseason game against the Chicago Bears, that toughness was evident as Gratz made six tackles in three series, including two impressive open-field stops on Matt Forte. Gratz is still adjusting to the new illegal contact rules being called at a high frequency. But if he can stay healthy this season (he missed six games with ankle injuries in 2013), don’t be surprised if Gratz has a breakout-type year that most people expect from safety Johnathan Cyprien. …

Every time Bears tight end Zach Miller looks like he shows some promise, he gets hurt. It’s why the likeable Miller became expendable with the Jags. …

Let’s hope the yellow flags that rained down from referee Carl Cheffers and his crew (21 enforced penalties) in the Bears-Jaguars game aren’t a prelude of the regular season. We don’t need microphone ham Ed Hochuli getting any more face time than he does already. …

So will academically suspended football players DaVaris Daniels, KeiVarae Russell, Ishaq Williams and Kendall Moore be forever known to Notre Dame fans as “The Four Coursemen?” …

Sometimes, Tiger Woods is too stubborn for his own good. It was no surprise when back issues flared up again at the PGA Championship. He refuses to admit that he returned too soon after his surgery, but at least Woods had the decency to pull out of U.S. Ryder Cup consideration so captain Tom Watson didn’t have to publicly reject him. …

Despite the awful tragedy for Kevin Ward Jr. and his family of seeing him get run over and killed by Tony Stewart’s car, Ward should have never wandered onto a dimly lit track, no matter how mad he was about being run into the wall. …

As part of Jacksonville University basketball coach Tony Jasick’s buyout agreement with his former employer, Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne, the Dolphins must travel to play IPFW on Nov. 24 without the Mastodons giving JU a return home game.

 

gene.frenette@jacksonville.com,
(904) 359-4540