Onwards and Upwards: What the Jaguars Need To Do to Rebound From 5-11

Auguste ArcherCorrespondent IJanuary 6, 2009

According to many sports analysts, enthusiasts and fans, 2008 was supposed to be the Jaguars year.

They had all the pieces in place, a good defense, a power running game and a quarterback who didn't make mistakes.

Unfortunately, 2008 turned out to be something of a disappointment.

And I do believe that anyone can agree 2-6 at home is pretty disappointing.

After finishing last in the AFC South with a measly 5-11 record, the Jaguars will pick eighth overall in the 2009 draft, and they are looking to rebound and shore up some of the weak spots that were so glaringly obvious during the course of this past season.

The lack of a pass rush, the lack of depth along the offensive line and the terrible play of the wide receivers are all areas that need to be addressed.

Lets start with how the Jags are going to deal with these the problems in the draft.

As far as the pass rush goes, rookie defensive end Derrick Harvey really started to come on towards the end of the season, a point where most rookies tend to peter off. Expect Harvey, with a full training camp under his belt, to be an impact player next season.

Because of Harvey's obvious development, and the fact that Quentin Groves still possesses a lot of potential, don't expect the Jags to draft d-line in the first round. If they do it'll only be because a big, run stuffing tackle is available (Andre Smith, anyone?).

As for offensive line depth, this is a real problem. Right tackle Khalif Barnes has already made it obvious that he plans to depart Jacksonville this year, becoming an un-restricted free agent. The Jaguars have to address not only the right tackle position but also desperately need depth at guard as well, which became very obvious after they lost both starting guards in the first game of the season. 

After losing Manuwai and Williams they struggled to open up lanes for the runners and had even more trouble protecting David Garrard, who was knocked down more than any other NFL quarterback this season.

They may try to draft a big offensive tackle or guard in the first round, Michael Oher comes to mind, but they may also wait until the second or third round and attempt to address the position in free agency instead.

Finally, the constant for the Jaguars. The thing that every season since Jimmy Smith retired has been on every fan's to-do list. Draft a big play wide receiver.

Not since the days of Thunder and Lightning, Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith, have opposing defenses been even remotely worried about game planning for the Jags' wide receiving corp. In fact, there haven't been any real big play receivers in the Jack Del Rio era.

With a draft that will include players like Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin and Percy Harvin it would be a shame if the Jags didn't take the opportunity to address a position that they have failed to fix for going on five years.

Personally, as a Jaguars fan, I want to see Harvin dressed out in teal in time for training camp. I think he's the kind of impact player the Jags need to win ball games. He'll scare opposing defenses and make them think twice about stacking the box, something that the Jaguars have been battling for years. Not to mention he can re-invigorate the outside running game, and he'll be deadly on wide receiver screens. 

If I was drafting for the Jags, Harvin would be at the top of my board.

As for free agency, the Jaguars are probably going to try to work on acquiring at least one big defensive tackle to go alongside John Henderson, who hasn't been himself since the departure of his run-stuffing counterpart Marcus Stroud.

They probably won't target a wide reciever unless a big name comes available. Last year's Jerry Porter experiment is over, and they aren't going to risk another free agent bust at the position.

They will probably go after players at both the guard and tackle position, particularly right tackle although they are hurting for depth all along the offensive line. Expect at least two free agent offensive line signings before training camp starts.

And finally, a position I don't see them addressing in the draft, (namely because there aren't any players worthy of the high pick) cornerback. Drayton Florence did not do his job this season, so don't expect him to keep it. Florence got burned deep consistently and the Jaguars will be looking for a player to replace him.

One option they have is to groom Gerald Sensabaugh for the starting strong safety job and move Brian Williams back to corner, where he played fairly well last season. I think they will probably try to sign a corner in free agency, though, because they still need someone who can compliment Rashean Mathis.

I think we'll also see changes in the linebacking corp with the almost inevitable departure of Mike Peterson. Jack Del Rio and Gregg Williams both think Justin Durant has progressed very well and there's a possibility that Williams will slide him over into the middle linebacker position.

Daryl Smith and Clint Ingram are both solid players, too, but Durant is a real standout athlete who excels in pass protection and can also play hard in the box to stop the run. Watch for Del Rio to possibly make such a move early in training camp.

The Jaguars off season mantra should be easy to follow:

Attain line depth, gain wide receiver speed and rush the passer.

If the Jaguars can accomplish these things we may very well see a return of the Jags of old.

If not, there may be another disappointing season in store.


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