Looking at Paul Hazel, the first thing that comes to mind is a basketball player in shoulder pads.
AT 6’5” and 277 pounds, the 23-year-old rookie from Western Michigan knows a thing or two about hoops and rushing the passer.
Hopefully, his speed will be a welcomed addition to the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team with 20 sacks as a team last season.
Could the idea of a speedy rush end with gangly arms and legs make the fan base forget about the fact the Jaguars did not take a pass rusher in the recent NFL Draft or seek one in free agency?
Could the idea of Hazel running around one side of the offensive line and Jason Babin, the other, make fans forget that Jeremy Mincey signed a huge offseason free agent contract last year and was a huge bust?
They sure are hoping so.
So is this writer.
The Miami native was quoted on mlive.com, saying he could not pass up an opportunity to play football in his home state. As an undrafted rookie free agent, the odds are against Hazel making any NFL team, but for a franchise like Jacksonville, where 29 players from last year’s squad are no longer on the roster, the odds are a bit better in his favor.
“They were real open about everything,” Hazel said. “The position I want to play is open and they really want me down there. I feel comfortable down there and I can stay close to home and have family come see me.”
In watching Hazel last weekend, you could see why the Jaguars were interested. He was constantly moving, always moving forward and always around the ball.
During his career at Western Michigan Hazel recorded 24 tackles for loss and 17 ½ sacks. He tallied 12 tackles for loss and eight sacks in 2010.
Hazel had 19 quarterback hurries in his career and six pass break-ups. He also forced seven fumbles.
He also played outside linebacker in college, which the coaching staff, especially Jaguars' defensive coordinator Bob Babich, could use in different defensive schemes.
“It kind of does give me an advantage because I can go from both,” Hazel said of rushing from the up or down position. “I can put my hand in the ground and get a pass rush on or I can rush from the up position. It all depends on the packages they want me in. Maybe I’ll be in the wide-nine technique with my hand in the ground.”
The Jaguars are hoping he can play either position and help make a difference.