Team Preview: Jacksonville Jaguars

Team Preview: Jacksonville Jaguars

The Steelers N'at

Team Preview: Jacksonville Jaguars

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2007 Record: 11-5

For the past few years, this team has been nipping at the heels of the Indianapolis Colts. After splitting with the Colts in 2006, many thought that 2007 would be the year they finally got over the hump and took the division crown. However, it was not to be. Indy swept the Jags and won the division by two games. The Jaguars made a few changes last season, none of them bigger than cutting franchise QB Byron Leftwich in favor of David Garrard. Garrard proved capable in his first year as a starter, posting a league-best 18:3 touchdowns to interceptions ratio. Garrard missed three games due to injury last season and sat out the last week of the season because the Jags had nothing to play for. Garrard posted a solid 9-3 record as a starter, and should continue to mature this season.

The Jaguars have one of the best running back tandems in the league of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, who can take the pressure off of Garrard by grinding it out. This team might have their geographic home in Florida, but they play like a northern team. They run the ball hard and play solid defense. Props to Jack Del Rio for building a team down south that can come up north and win games in December and January.

Last season, the Jaguars were hampered by a lack of a big-play receiver to get the ball to. In response to this need they went out and acquired Jerry Porter from Oakland and Troy Williamson from Minnesota. The Jaguars receivers have been the low point of the team this off-season with Matt Jones getting arrested on charges of possessing hard drugs, and Porter and Reggie Williams suffering injuries. Both Porter and Williams should be back in the lineup by the start of the regular season. Williamson might just have the breakout year this year that he never had with Minnesota. In his three years with Minnesota after being selected in the first round, Williamson produced only 1067 yards and 3 TDs. It is important to remember that in that time, the Vikings never had a steady head coach, much less a steady coaching staff or quarterback.

Jacksonville had a solid defense last season that will only get better with the addition of first-round pick Derrick Harvey as a pass-rushing defensive end. Jacksonville finished last season 12th in total defense, 11th in run defense, 15th in pass defense, and 10th in scoring defense. Jacksonville fared better in the big play department, finishing 4th in the league in interceptions (with 20) and 9th in the league in sacks (with 37). However, Derrick Harvey is still holding out from camp because he has not come to a contract agreement with the team. This defense is beatable and is not on the elite level of some of the other units in the league. But the Jaguars possess a good enough offensive team to run the ball and play clock control, keeping their defense off the field and not ending up in situations that require a 2-score comeback.

The one gigantic looming problem for this team is at backup quarterback. If Garrard goes down with injury, Quinn Gray is no longer available as he now dons the white and blue of the rival Colts. Rather, the Jags will have to rely on Cleo Lemon to fill in for Garrard if he falls to injury. This could completely change the fortunes of the Jaguars season and cost them a shot at the playoffs.

The schedule is where the Jaguars have their biggest advantage on the Colts. Rather than having to play New England and San Diego, the Jaguars get Buffalo and Denver, a huge advantage. Jacksonville also gets Pittsburgh, Green Bay, and Minnesota at home, all teams Indy has to face on the road. In the tough AFC South, these few games could mean the difference between a division championship and a Wild Card.

This team has all the intangibles in place to make a run for the division crown and topple Indy’s vicegrip on the division. However, Jacksonville has a lack of depth at some key positions including quarterback and defensive end. Their defense is good but it is not elite yet. Even if this team does take the division on the backs of their two-headed-monster at running back, I don’t see them going far in the playoffs.

Ian’s 2008 Prediction: 11-5
John’s 2008 Prediction: 11-5

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