After a ridiculously long sabbatical, we’re back.
And in case you weren’t aware, Jaguars Football is back too!
The Jaguars’ 2011 season kicks-off this Sunday at EverBank Field against the Tennessee Titans, on the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. A few months ago, when the lockout was in full-swing, it seemed like this day would never come.
It’s here. And we’re ready.
The most recent and significant piece of Jaguars news is obviously the release of quarterback, David Garrard. After 4 years as the starting quarterback and a less than impressive 2011 pre-season, General Manager Gene Smith decided it was time for the Jaguars and Garrard to part ways. Luke McCown was then elevated to the starting position, with Blaine Gabbert backing him up.
To say I was surprised would probably be an understatement. Not so much at the move itself, but rather the timing - 5 days before the regular season opener. That’s crazy, isn’t it? But crazy or not, ready or not, the Jaguars still have to play on Sunday. And they’ll have to do it against a divisional opponent that always presents a tough, physical match-up.
The Titans play a similar brand of football to the Jaguars. They’ve got a new veteran starting quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck, and they’re a run first team, that leans heavily on one of the best (and now highest paid) running backs in the league in Chris Johnson. Recent reports suggest that Johnson will be “limited” in carries and “monitored” on Sunday, due to a hold-out that ended just a few days ago and concerns over his conditioning. However, I still expect the Titans to try to establish the run early.
All in all, this should be the perfect game to open up the 2011 season. A tough, divisional rival at home, combined with the heightened emotion of remembering a day when we all bled together as a nation. The unabashed love, hope and aspirations for a sports team juxtaposed with extremely humbled perspective. I can’t wait to join my friends in the stands and watch the city come together in support of the Jaguars and in support of this great nation.
Here are some match-ups and things to watch for during the game:
- The Jaguars’ Defensive Line vs. The Titans’ Offensive Line: Can the Jaguars pressure the quarterback? It’s been a focus all off-season and pre-season. Is Aaron Kampman fully healed and able to ignite the line once again? Tyson Alualu looked like a man possessed during training camp and pre-season. He seems poised for a break-out year. Alualu’s dominance seems key to the Jaguars pressuring the quarterback.
- The Jaguars’ Offensive Line vs. the Titans’ Defensive Line: As an area of inconsistency in the pre-season, particularly on the left side with Eugene Monroe and rookie guard Will Rackley, can offensive line provide adequate pass protection for Luke McCown. Starting for the first time in several years, he’s bound to have some butterflies. A solid pocket will help him settle down.
- Luke McCown: Gene Smith and Jack Del Rio have said it, and no doubt believe it. Now it’s time for Luke to show that he gives the Jaguars the best possible option to win on Sundays. He was undoubtedly the best quarterback in training camp. But going against 1st stringers on opening day is quite different than practice against your own teammates and pre-season against back-ups. He seems to take more chances and be more aggressive in the passing game than his predecessor. In today’s NFL, this is a must. Let it fly, Luke.
- Maurice Jones-Drew: He’s the catalyst. As MJD goes, so go the Jaguars. It’s important to get him going early, but off-season knee surgery and limited involvement in camp and the pre-season has people wondering if he’s ready to go. I have a feeling MJD wants the first people that find out the answer to that question to be the Titan’s linebacking corps. It will also be interesting to see the kind of workload he gets. There was a lot of talk in the off-season of limiting the wear and tear on Jones-Drew with the hopes of having him more fresh late in the season. With Rashad Jennings out for the year, the Jags will turn to Deji Karim to spell Jones-Drew and play the “change-of-pace” role with home-run potential.
- The Jaguars’ Receiving Corps: Mike Thomas and Jason Hill are the starters but didn’t show too much in the pre-season. Rookie Cecil Shorts III showed flashes of play-making ability, but also showed that he’s still a rookie. Can they gain separation and make life easier on McCown? Will a new quarterback keep them grounded or give them new life?
- The Jaguars’ Back Seven: The Jaguars spent a lot of money in free-agency to try to improve a defense that ranked at the bottom of the league last year. He’s not exactly Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers, but Matt Hasselbeck has shown the Jaguars that he can light them up (See Week 5, 2009). On paper, the Jaguars are much better on defense than they were then.
- Deji Karim, CS3 and the Return Game: Although often overlooked, you can win or lose a game on special teams. The Jaguars were very good on special teams last year. They’ll be good again this year. It’s a phase they are capable of winning every game. Cecil Shorts will be handling punt returns and Karim will be fielding kick-offs. Karim has consistently shown his explosiveness and almost returned a kick-off for a touchdown this pre-season against the New England Patriots. With kick-offs moved up to the 35-yard-line, it seems like he’ll get less opportunities. However, when an opportunity does presents itself, the Jaguars should capitalize and give McCown a shorter field.
Sorry for the absurdly long length between posts, but Jagsonville will be alive and kicking in the near future
Join us as we talk about the Jaguars selecting Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert
Wow, it has been a little while between posts hehe. Anyway, the Jagsonville Podcast returns as we discuss the Jaguars draft plans with Adam Stites of the Jaggernaut.com
Sorry for the lack of content recently. I’ve been really busy with other projects. Anyway, Jon Banks from Canal Street Chronicles asked me a few questions about the Jaguars and I wanted to share my answers with you.
1. The Jaguars gave the Colts a run for the division, what kept them from moving in for the kill?
1. December collapses are nothing new under Jack Del Rio. 8 seasons, the Jaguars have entered December 6 times with a solid chance of winning the division or a Wild Card. The Jaguars have had 2 playoff seasons in those 8 years. This year, the team simply wasn’t that good particularly in the secondary and QB position. The Colts regressed and the Jaguars were seemingly the only team in the AFC South that didn’t regress as well.
2. Name an MVP and LVP of the Jaguars.
2. The Jags MVP is without a doubt Maurice Jones-Drew. The man played on a bum knee all year and still almost won the rushing title. The LVP is a tie between David Jones and Don Carey (Surprise two secondary players.) According to Football Outsiders, a hole in zone coverage does a better job defending a WR than David Jones did. As for Carey, he was the subject of an infamous roster move GM Gene Smith made. To put it lightly, Carey was terrible and wouldn’t start for any other team in the league.
3. The Jaguars pass defense was one of the worst in the league, was this on coaching, players, or execution?
3. For now, I’ll go with talent. The Jaguars secondary was a revovling door of DBs and they were all varying degrees of bad. Rashean Mathis is still a solid starting corner, but clearly not the elite corner he was from 2004-2007. Derek Cox managed to play well after getting out of Del Rio’s dog house. However, the safety position has to be addresses quickly. Courtney Greene is a solid SS from a run stuffing standpoint but leaves something to be desired as a pass defender. If the Jaguars don’t make a play for Eric Weddle, alot of people will be disappointed.
Also, the Jaguars LB corp shares some responsibility for the terrible pass defense. Kirk Morrision and Justin Durant were consistently being targeted by teams with good receiving TEs.
4. What were your preseason expectations? Did the Jaguars meet, surpass, or fall short of them?
4. 8-8 was my expectation and the Jaguars played to that level. However, obviously, no one figured the Colts would regress like they did and the Jaguars would enter December leading the AFC South. In that regard, the Jaguars fell short yet again.
5. What is the biggest need for the Jags this offseason?
5. The Jaguars need to get a QB for the future. We know what David Garrard will give you and he’s already 32. The Jaguars haven’t drafted a QB since taking Byron Leftwich in 2003 (the longest current streak in the NFL.) The current QB crop isn’t the blockbuster class many anticipated, but I still believe several quality starters can be found in this year’s draft.
6. What is the biggest hope for the Jaguars moving forward?
6. The biggest hope is the continued support from the community. Former Jaguar Tony Boselli led the Team Teal efforts that resulted in every Jags home game being on TV. The team and the city can’t afford to rest on those laurels. The next step has to get the regular seats sold out on a season ticket basis and (more importantly) getting the Jaguars club seats filled.
About a month ago I gave an initial list of 16 players who I would’ve liked to see the Jaguars get with the 16th pick in the draft. Why 16? As Vic Ketchman would say, if you’re picking at 16 you better have 16 guys you like.
1. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
Peterson is the best corner prospect in the draft and tied with Von Miller for the best overall defensive prospect. His chances of being at 16 are slim and none, but he would be great for the Jaguars.
2. Cameron Jordan, DE, Cal
As you can tell, I really like Jordan. I think he can play anywhere on the DL and would help the Jaguars immediately. Plus, he isn’t a one year wonder like a Da’Quan Bowers.
3. Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Gabbert’s Pro Day will be huge since he was the only major QB prospect to not throw at the combine.
4. Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
Miller is a special player. He might not fit best in a 4-3 scheme, but he would make any defense he was in better.
With the Jaguars announcing they have signed Luke McCown to a contract extension, another piece has been added to the Jaguars QB puzzle. The other two pieces will come during the Draft and whenever a new CBA is announced. The Jaguars will take a QB early in the draft, perhaps with their first round pick. Whoever that pick will be, they will be the future of the position and should be the starter by 2012.
The NFL’s labor situation will also play a huge role in how the offseason is handled. If a new CBA isn’t reached until September then practically every rookie will be behind the eight ball. That would make veterans who would otherwise be expendable harder for teams to cut.
What does all of this have to do with David Garrard? Simple. Depending on how those two factors go, he may have already played his last game for the Jaguars.
With the NFL Combine kicking off, this is the time of year when Jaguars GM Gene Smith should be at his best. Widely regarded amongst his peers as one of the best scouts in the business, Smith will be entering his third draft season as the team’s GM. Some fans have built him up into a mythic figure with a Midas Touch; but how has his tenure gone so far?
His 2009 draft was solid when it happened and in some ways has gotten better with age. As teams shed more and more high picks from 2009, most pundits have pegged that year as one of the weakest drafts in a decade. The Jaguars managed to find five full time starters and several other contributors out of that group. Terrance Knighton is a budding All-Pro DT. Derek Cox has played well when he hasn’t spent time in Del Rio’s Doghouse. LT Eugene Monroe has been criticized by some, but I think he has played well. RT Eben Britton has been bitten by the injury buy (a recurring problem in “Gene” guys in seems).