Monday, August 24, 2009

The MJD Show: Jacksonville Jaguars Season Preview

2008 Record: 5-11

After a 2007 season where they looked incredibly solid top-to-bottom, the wheels fell off in 2008. The Jaguars lost multiple offensive linemen to injury, and not only did their running game suffer, but Garrard wasn't nearly the same quarterback he was a year before. The Jags went from a team that challenged New England in the second round, to picking in the Top 10. The Jaguars did address their O-line issues in the draft, by taking standout tackle from Virginia Eugene Monroe. However, Monroe held out for the first two weeks of camp and just recently has seen his first action.

In order for the Jaguars to have success, they need to get back to what worked for them in 2007. Namely, running the ball. Fred Taylor is gone, meaning that the show now belongs to Maurice Jones-Drew. Without another back capable of sharing the workload, one has to wonder if MJD is capable of being the feature back for the entire season. We believe he is, but we also know that 300 carries will wear you down faster than you expect. MJD is a good back, and great catching passes out of the backfield, but one of the reasons he has been able to stay fresh late in the season was the presence of Fred Taylor to spell him. Rashad Jennings, rookie RB from Liberty, was a 7th round pick but is an intriguging prospect as a short-yardage power-running back.

The Jags did bring in Tra Thomas at OT from Philadelphia, but Thomas has had injury problems in the past. On the whole, the line will probably be medicore this year. They will be better than last season, but still not back to their 07 form. The passing game is reliant on David Garrard's ability to make accurate throws and control the game. Garrard's abilities mesh well with Jacksonville's receiving corps. The Jags brought in some cast-off burners in the offseason in the hopes of using the passing game to stretch the field. Tory Holt from St. Louis and Troy Williamson from Minnesota both have that ability, but Holt is aging with injury issues and Williamson has never been incredibly productive. Behind them is a trio of rookie receivers that have a chance to break through. Jarrett Dillard, who led the nation in TD receptions last year and was the career leader in everything at Rice, along with Tiquan Underwood (Rutgers) and Mike Thomas (Arizona), have the potential to grow into the Jags next generation of targets.

On the other side of the ball, Jacksonville traded up last season to take Derrick Harvey (DE-Florida). Harvey started 9 games and produced 3.5 sacks, but only 19 tackles. The Jags also spent their 2008 second round pick on Quentin Groves (DE-Auburn) who added 2.5 sacks last season. These two figure to battle for the 2nd DE spot on the roster, as Reggie Heyward, who led the team in sacks last season with 4.5, figures to start on the other side. John Henderson is still a force inside, when he wants to be, but he is known for being lazy and his production has suffered since Marcus Stroud left for Buffalo in Free Agency.

Quick, name a Jaguars linebacker off the top of your head. Can't do it? That's okay, neither could we. Mike Peterson, the best of the unit, is gone, leaving a rather unremarkable linebacking corps. In the secondary, Rasheen Mathis and Reggie Nelson are solid players, along with corner Brian Williams (not the NBC Nightly News anchor). Williams led the team in tackles last year, and came up with 2 interceptions. On the other side, Mathis had 4 picks last season, including a pick-6 against the Steelers. The Jaguars secondary was gashed for over 3500 yards last season, and finished 24th in the league. They were 17th in the league in total defense and 21st in scoring defense. One of the strengths of the Jacksonville team of '07 was their defense, which completely fell apart last season. Since most of the same pieces are in place, it's safe to expect similar results this year.

For right now, the Jags offense looks like Father-son day at the office. They have a lot of people at the beginning or end of their careers, and not many at their peak. For now, it seems that the window has closed on Jacksonville and the rebuilding process has begun. However, given the discipline problems he had with the team last season, Jack Del Rio is on his last leg as a coach, and it wouldn't be surprising to see someone else wearing the headset next season.

Ian's Prediction: 6-10

Jacksonville has a lot of things not going for them. First, their schedule. In case you forgot, they still play in the AFC South, which means they get Tennessee, Indy, and Houston twice. They play the AFC East, which means trips to New England and New York late in the season when snow might be falling. They will rack up a few wins against the lowly NFC West, which is one reason why I think they'll be slightly better than last season. As long as MJD stays healthy, they will have a solid running game and have a chance to stay in games if they can control the clock. Six of their 11 losses last season were by less than 1 possession. However, 5 of those came before the Detroit game, after which they limped to the finish with a 1-6 record. The Jags went into their Week 7 bye at 3-3 and finished the season on a 2-8 skid, with their only wins coming over Detroit and Green Bay. The Jags do have a 3-game homestand in December this year, with Houston, Miami, and Indy. If the Jags can succeed through that stretch, they may push .500, but I'm really not seeing it. The Jags were 2-6 at home last season, so having a homestand at the end of the year isn't exactly a recipie for success.

John's Prediction:

No comments: