NFL Preview: Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville Jaguars

Owner: Wayne Weaver

Everbank Field

Head Coach: Jack Del Rio, 8th year, 57-55 as Jaguars HC, 1-2 in playoffs, on the hot seat this season. He said it himself in his last 2009 season press conference, it’s playoffs or else.

Offensive Coordinator: Dirk Koetter, 4th year as OC, after a successful 1st season in 2007 with Garrard, the past two seasons haven’t produced up to par results. With Sims-Walker, Mike Thomas, Jarret Dillard, Marcedes Lewis, and Zach Miller expect the passing game to improve a bit and the running game will still be the backbone.

Defensive Coordinator: Mel Tucker, 2nd year as DC, came from Cleveland where he was defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator. Last season the defense attempted to be changed to a hybrid 3-4/4-3 front, but that was a disaster. This year, it has been established that the defense will be a 4-3 attacking front.

Special Teams Coordinator: Russ Purnell, 2nd year as STC, came in last year from Indianapolis. Has two of the best special teams players in the league to work with in Kassim Osgood and Montell Owens. Expect Jacksonville to have one of the best units in the league.

GM: Gene Smith, entering his second regular season as GM, he has stated that he sticks to the best available player draft philosophy. He has stuck to his draft philosophy, as the 2010 draft showed. When asked about the criticism he’s been receiving he replied, “This is not a popularity contest. I don’t give a damn about perception.” Many have regarded his 2009 draft as one of the best of last year’s, but he came under harsh criticism for his 2010 draft class. Only time will tell. The impact of the 2009 draft class can’t be ignored, and we’ll just have to wait and see who’s right about the 2010 class.

2009 Record: 7-9, 4th in AFC South

Additions:
Aaron Kampman DE, Green Bay – will be start DE but coming off ACL surgery.
Freddy Keiaho LB, Indianapolis – will provide depth or will be part of final cuts.
Teddy Lehman LB, FA (UFL) – will provide depth or will be part of final cuts.
Kirk Morrison MLB, Oakland (Draft Day trade) – will be starting MLB. Instantly improves linebackers.
Kassim Osgood WR/ST, San Diego – not a good receiver, but one of the best on special teams.
Justin Smiley OG, Miami (Trade) – in line to compete for starting guard spot, but will injuries get in way?

Rookies
Tyson Alualu DT, California #10 overall – GM Gene Smith and Mike Mayock love this guy. He’s got a high motor and he can definitely fly around, cause disruption in the backfield, and is a sure tackler. Fans and Teblowers (those are people who like to blow Tebow) criticized the pick, but hey, they’re the ones who watched tape on hundreds of players over year before the draft. Oh wait…
D’Anthony Smith DT, Louisiana Tech #74 – was going to be used in rotation replacing Terrance Knighton in passing situations, but tore his Achilles and will most likely be out for the season.
Larry Hart DE, Central Arkansas #143 – small, compares his game to Robert Mathis. Has great leg strength (squatted 650 in high school). Will start out as a pass rusher, but will have to prove his ability to hold up against the run.
Austen Lane DE, Murray State #153 – will rotate in and out of lineup as Jags try to help their terrible pass rush. Finished in the all-time top 10 in career sacks in the FCS.
Deji Karim RB/KR, Southern Illinois #180 – is an elusive back who stays small and compact as he runs across the line of scrimmage, obviously in the mold of MJD. FCS leading rusher last year with reliable hands.
Scotty McGee PR/CB, James Madison #203 – drafted to help the Jaguars gain an advantage in field position. Had 6 return TDs at James Madison.

Notable Rookie FAs: John Estes C Hawaii, Trevor Harris QB Edinboro, Kyle Bosworth LB UCLA (Brian Bosworth’s nephew)

Losses:
Kenard Cox CB, Seattle
Quentin Groves OLB, Oakland (Trade)
Reggie Hayward DE, FA
John Henderson DT, Oakland
Torry Holt WR, New England
Clint Ingram OLB, New Orleans
Brian Iwuh LB/ST, Chicago
Rob Meier DT, FA
Greg Peterson DE, Washington
Tra Thomas OT, San Diego

2009 Rankings
OFF: 18.1 (24th) Points, 336.6 (18th) Yards, 209.8 (19th) Pass Yards, 126.8 (10th) Rush Yards
DEF: 23.8 (24th) Points, 352.3 (23rd) Yards, 235.9 (27th) Pass Yards, 116.4 (19th) Rush Yards

2009 Leaders
David Garrard 314-516 60.9% 3597 YDS 15 TD 10 INT 42 SCK 83.5 RTG
Maurice Jones-Drew 312 ATT 1391 YDS 4.5 AVG 80 LNG 15 TD
Mike Sims-Walker 63 REC 869 YDS 13.8 AVG 61 LNG 7 TD
Josh Scobee 18-26 69%
Daryl Smith 107 Comb 84 TOT 23 AST
John Henderson 3 SCK
Derek Cox 4 INT

Fantasy Players
Maurice Jones-Drew RB
Mike Sims-Walker WR
David Garrard QB
Mike Thomas WR
Marcedes Lewis TE
Zach Miller TE

Projected Starting Lineup
Offense
QB: David Garrard
RB: Maurice Jones-Drew
FB: Greg Jones
WR: Mike Sims-Walker
WR: Mike Thomas
TE: Marcedes Lewis
LT: Eugene Monroe
LG: Uche Nwaneri
C: Brad Meester
RG: Vince Manuwai
RT: Eben Britton
K: Josh Scobee

Defense
DE: Derrick Harvey
DT: Terrance Knighton
DT: Tyson Alualu
DE: Aaron Kampman
OLB: Daryl Smith
MLB: Kirk Morrison
OLB: Justin Durant
CB: Derek Cox
CB: Rashean Mathis
FS: Reggie Nelson
SS: Gerald Alexander
P: Adam Podlesh

QB: David Garrard has this year to prove he’s worth the big contract the Jags signed him to after 2007. If he gets injured Luke McCown will come in. Undrafted FA Trevor Harris from Edinboro is the third option. No QB has shown any consistency in training camp so far.

RB: MJD will no doubt continue his dominance against defenses while backups Rashad Jennings and Deji Karim will help spell him. Jennings should be improved in hitting the hole and Karim could be a playmaker in open space.

WR: Mike Sims-Walker remains the number 1 while Mike Thomas, Jarett Dillard, Troy Williamson, Tiquan Underwood, Kassim Osgood, and Nate Hughes (along with other camp players) will compete for the remaining spots. Thomas, Dillard, and Osgood are the only ones who will no doubt be on the final roster.

TE: Marcedes Lewis has learned how to be a good blocker, but hasn’t lived up to his offensive production potential. He’s improved every year, so hopefully he’ll see a significant numbers jump. Zach Miller is a playmaker who can make the offense exciting and Ernest Wilford will provide depth.

OL: Tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton will be improved, but the interior offensive line is shaky at best. Kynan Forney, Justin Smiley, Vince Manuwai, and Brad Meester are all either trying to prove they’ve recovered from past injuries or that they still have enough left in the tank despite their age.

DL: Kampman is coming off ACL injury but is penciled in as the starter. Harvey will be across from him and he’ll have to prove he was worth the 8th overall pick in the 08 draft. He’s dropped weight in order to get off the ball faster and has shown that he’s strong against the run. Alualu and Knighton will start on the inside. Alualu will push to get upfield while Knighton (who’s been trying to get his weight down) will be a hold the point, run stuffer. Ko Quaye and Atiyyah Ellison will provide depth in the middle (an extra spot will be left from the injury of D’Anthony Smith). Austen Lane, Jeremy Navarre, and Larry Hart will provide depth on the ends.

LB: Justin Durant, Kirk Morrison, and Daryl Smith are entrenched as the starters, but Russell Allen turned heads last season. He’s going to force himself onto the field at some point or if somebody doesn’t play up to par. Smith will move back to his natural position at strong side linebacker with Morrison coming in.

DB: Derek Cox and Rashean Mathis have proven they are the undoubted starters at the corners. Mathis held out during OTAs because he wants a new contract to keep him in Jacksonville until he retires. Ty Brackenridge, Scott Starks, and Don Carey will push for playing time. At safety, Gerald Alexander will be a solid option, but next to him it’s not looking pretty. Sean Considine, Reggie Nelson, and Anthony Smith are not exactly starting material, but if Nelson steps up his game, he should regain his spot as a starter.

Special teams: Kassim Osgood and Montell Owens are two of the best special teamers in the league. Josh Scobee was asked to kick tough FGs last year and as a result his stats suffered. Look for him to bounce back. Adam Podlesh has been working on directional kicking, so his average may not look good, but the unit should rank high against average return yardage again (1st in NFL last year).

Schedule
(1) 9/12 Denver Broncos 1:00 PM
(2) 9/19 at San Diego Chargers 4:15 PM
(3) 9/26 Philadelphia Eagles 4:05 PM
(4) 10/3 Indianapolis Colts 4:05 PM
(5) 10/10 at Buffalo Bills 1:00 PM
(6) 10/18 Tennessee Titans 8:30 PM ESPN
(7) 10/24 at Kansas City Chiefs 1:00 PM
(8) 10/31 at Dallas Cowboys 1:00 PM
(9) 11/7 BYE
(10) 11/14 Houston Texans 1:00 PM
(11) 11/21 Cleveland Browns 1:00 PM
(12) 11/28 at New York Giants 1:00 PM
(13) 12/5 at Tennessee Titans 1:00 PM
(14) 12/12 Oakland Raiders 1:00 PM
(15) 12/19 at Indianapolis Colts 1:00 PM
(16) 12/26 Washington Redskins 1:00 PM
(17) 1/2 at Houston Texans 1:00 PM

2010 Outlook:

To many outsiders, it seems the Jaguars are doomed for another bottom 10 finish season, and that’s the last thing their ticket situation needs, but more on that later. The Jaguars are in playoffs-or-bust mode for Jack Del Rio. This will be his last season if he can’t get this team to the playoffs. The Jaguars will need many second year players and rookies to step up this year and produce. They finished dead last in sacks last season, only getting 14. David Garrard is also a man who is walking on thin ice. He needs to not only step up his leadership, but also his playing ability. And for a man in his early thirties, it may be a little late for that.

Selling tickets and relocation has been the black eye on the Jaguars franchise for a few years now. The ticket sales started to decline in 1999 when the team had a franchise and league best 14-2 record. It just got worse when the team went through salary cap hell. Then when the team was even getting back to playoff contenders from 2005-2007 tickets were still an issue. This year has been a “save the whale” campaign by an organization called Team Teal headed by former first pick of the franchise Tony Boselli. The Jaguars have had the best ticket selling year since their inaugural season. The Jaguars need to have an exciting season if they want to get apathetic fans in Jacksonville to come to Everbank Field. They’re about 4,500 tickets away from having no blackouts in Jacksonville this year, so don’t count this town out yet. However, they need more.

Prediction

This team has a much improved front 7 on defense, but how many more times will the safeties let them down? The problems on offense are on the interior offensive line, second WR, and David Garrard. Garrard is a decent option, but he just hit his ceiling in 2007 and I’m afraid he’s not going to get any better this season, if not worse. Jack Del Rio is in a do or die situation along with Garrard. But I can only see this team going 8-8, third in the AFC South. They have the range of going between 10-6 and 6-10. They are a young team on the rise, but I don’t see them making the playoffs this year, especially from the tough AFC South. I think they’ll be drafting their franchise QB in the 2011 NFL Draft and having a very bright future ahead of them.

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