That picture was what I thought Tampa would witness on Feb. 1; the class of the NFC and AFC. The Seattle Seahawks, the perennial NFC West champs take Mike Holmgren to the Super Bowl in his final year.
And then, the upstart Jaguars, led by the fearsome rushing attack of Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor, make their first ever trip to a Super Bowl. Neither team had ever won a Super Bowl, but that would change for one team...
Until neither got more than five wins.
What can these teams do to return to championship form? Well, lucky for them, they have top 10 picks to fix it; the Seahawks with the fourth pick and the Jaguars with the eighth. Let's first look at the Seahawks.
The Seahawks were ravaged by injuries; they had to sign the grocery store boy to play wide receiver! Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was out for the majority of the season and their offensive line was much maligned through the season.
The obvious pick is Michael Crabtree [WR from Texas Tech], the consensus No. 1 wide receiver prospect in this year's draft. The Seahawks will get guys back next year, but for how much longer? Most of their receiving corps are 30 years old.
If there are any other options for the Seahawks, it'd be offensive tackle or running back. Walter Jones has been injury-prone and is nearing the end of his possible Hall of Fame career. With a very top-heavy group of tackles like Alabama's Andre Smith and Virginia's Eugene Monroe, if Crabtree is off the board the Seahawks will likely go for one of the big guys to protect Hasselbeck.
Running back is an interesting option. Julius Jones is 27, nearing the age of the dreaded downfall of running backs; 30. With elite prospects Chris Wells and Knowshon Moreno falling due to lack of need, why not grab one of them? Chris Wells is a big back with fantastic speed, especially for a 6'1", 230-pound back.
Moreno is a little more well rounded; he can catch the ball out of the backfield and is a little faster than Wells. Also, he's smaller, allowing him to get lost behind offensive lineman and has less durability issues.
Now for the Jaguars...Man, this team was loaded with talent. Quarterback David Garrard came off a fantastic season and the rushing duo of Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor would blow the doors off defenses. What happened? Offensive implosion, that's what happened.
First of all, the offensive line was ravaged by injuries. For a team that relies on running the football, having to rely on your sixth-string guards [that is an exaggeration] to block for you is not a good sign.
Also, their offensive tackles were injury prone. David Garrard was sacked 42 times, double how many sacks he received the year before. His interception total skyrocketed from three in 2007 to 13 in 2008.
Not to mention, Garrard was throwing to scrubs like crack-addicted Matt Jones, Top 10 busts Troy Williamson and Reggie Williams, and return man Dennis Northcutt.
The safer and more likely pick, though, would be Michael Oher (OT from Ole Miss). Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio coached the South team during the Senior Bowl earlier this year. Michael Oher started at left tackle for the South team, and reports indicate he was a fan of Oher.
In my previous articles, I had Cincinnati grabbing Eugene Monroe ad Oakland grabbing Jason Smith, leaving Michael Oher as the last remaining of the Big Four tackles. Oher protects Garrad's blind side and allow Garrard to actually survive and reduce his interception rate back to three.
Our preseason predictions typically are incorrect. At least I can say injuries ruined mine.
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