Jacksonville Jaguars: Injuries Leading Team Toward First Pick in the 2013 Draft
The news from the Jacksonville Jaguars' 34-18 loss in Buffalo was anything but good, as nothing seemed to go right for the Jaguars. Whether it was trying to run the ball, pass in continual rain or stop the Bills running game, the Jaguars seemed impotent and ineffective in every phase of their game plan.
What they were able to do, which is not something to be proud of, was put themselves in a position to claim the first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. The Kansas City Chiefs' win, coupled with the loss on the road, have the two teams competing for the worst record in the NFL.
Again, this is something this team should not be proud of. While Jacksonville has never had the "honor" of being the first team to have its name called by the NFL commissioner in New York, it has drafted in the second slot before, where names like Tony Boselli and Kevin Hardy became mainstays in the team's rise to AFC Championship games in both 1996 and 1999.
This season, like others, finds the offense and defense both in need of help. Holes have been exposed all year, whether it has been with the run defense or with the offensive line play that has left current starter Chad Henne unprotected and on his back in games against the Houston Texans and Bills. A quarterback cannot effectively move an offense when the pocket collapses or he has to run from defenders to avoid being sacked. These problems are not helped by the injuries that continue to mount for this franchise.
According to a story on BigCatCountry.com, injuries continue to plague this team as well. On Monday afternoon, it was reported that Cecil Shorts suffered a concussion in the game on Sunday. Rashad Jennings also will not play this week due to a concussion and will be replaced by Montell Owens, according to ProFootballTalk.com. It is not known if Shorts will play on Sunday against the New York Jets. If he is not able to play, it will deplete a passing attack that was adequate with Shorts and first-round draft pick Justin Blackmon in the starting lineup.
Management and the coaching staff have to ask if the team is becoming the MASH unit it was in 2011, when the injuries mounted up on defense and the team could not get out of its own way. Now, along with those same challenges, they are in the midst of a losing season with a new owner, a new head coach and a recent contract extension for its general manager.
Both Shorts and Blackmon, along with tight end Marcedes Lewis, have been playing better since Henne replaced injured starter Blaine Gabbert, who was placed on injured reserve two weeks ago. Remember, injuries at key positions also decimated this team in 2011.
If this team is to seek help through free agency (Cliff Avril at defensive end, Alex Smith through free agency or a trade or maybe even Mike Vick), it will be hard-pressed to convince established players to come play for a team that will again assume the "rebuilding" title in its pledge to do better in the 2013 season. The draft will be key, and whether Gene Smith, the current czar of the draft board, is still under contract remains to be seen.
There are plenty of changes in the future for this team and everything starts at the top. Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, defensive back Derek Cox and offensive guard/tackle Eben Britton are in the final year of their contracts and may not be back. Guy Whimper is not the answer as a backup on the offensive line either, and solidity on both sides of the ball is key.
Avril makes sense since he is a local talent. Someone like Jake Long from the Miami Dolphins may be available to anchor the offensive line and possibly move Eugene Monroe to the right side.
The draft does not seem to be the answer to the entire problem, as there are many needs and no clear-cut top pick or someone that would make the impact of a Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. And choosing a quarterback in the first round does not help this team move forward.
What this team faces is being held hostage by its own mistakes, and the only way to fix it is to rebuild, reassess and redefine where this team needs to be. Until then, the most pressing issues to be dealt with are injuries. If this team cannot do that, it will go nowhere, and a pattern of losing year after year is very possible.
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