31 Days, 31 Teams: Jacksonville Jaguars
By Jeff Falconio
After a successful '07 campaign that included a trip to the AFC divisional playoffs, the Jacksonville Jaguars appeared ready to overtake the Colts atop the South division. But instead of a dream season, 2008 turned into a nightmare for the Jags.
After a 3-3 start the Jaguars won only two games the rest of the season. Two problems contributed to the brutal 5-11 record. The first was the play of quarterback David Garrard, who put up good numbers in '07 but could not duplicate it last season. Garrard had a bigger role and though he threw for more yards in '08 his 13 interceptions to go with just 15 touchdowns was too inconsistent for the conservative Jags. It wasn't all Garrard's fault though as Jacksonville had virtually no talent at wide receiver. To alleviate the problem Jacksonville signed Torry Holt, hoping to stretch opposing defenses. The Jags also used three draft picks on receivers. Nevertheless, Jacksonville is a run-first team and the offense will revolve around Maurice Jones-Drew, who will now be firmly in the spotlight after splitting time with the since-departed Fred Taylor.
The second problem was a defense that slipped from 10th in '07 to 17th in scoring. Most of the issues were in the secondary where Jacksonville finished 24th in passing defense and gave up the third most touchdowns in the league. The offseason was spent cleaning house, mostly at safety, though the Jaguars did not pick up any blue chip free agents or draftees. Despite the number of moves the Jaguars believe the playoffs are still in range.
Burning Question: Do the Jaguars have enough weapons offensively? Jones-Drew is one of the top backs in the NFL but beyond that it gets dicey. For Garrard to succeed Holt will need a big year and the Jaguars must replace their top three receivers from last year. The offensive line also needs some work. Garrard was sacked 42 times last year and the Jaguars made that a focus in the draft, using their top two picks on linemen.
The Jaguars will be better than last year if: The revamped offensive line allows Garrard to look more like he did in 2007. MJD becomes a three-down back and picks up 2,000 total yards. The new-look secondary holds down the fort and survives the early tests of Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner and Matt Schaub to start the season. If this is the case the Jaguars can return to the playoffs.
The Jaguars will be worse than last year if: There's no cohesion along the o-line, meaning Garrard will again be inconsistent and underconfident. Holt looks nothing like his vintage years in St. Louis and without Taylor, Jones-Drew wears down as the season drags on. Defensively the Jaguars get ripped in the secondary again as aside from the South gunslingers Jacksonville also has to face New England and Seattle. Suddenly the Jaguars look like a rebuilding team in the AFC's toughest division.