A few years ago Jaguars QB Byron Leftwich said that when the team gets off the bus it looks more like an NBA team has arrived than a football team.
At the time, the team included Leftwich who was 6-5, WRs Reggie Williams and Ernest Wilford who were each 6-4, and WR Matt Jones stood 6-6.
That was then, this is now. With all of those players no longer here, the identity and offensive philosophy of this team has drastically changed.
If last week's mini-camp is any kind of preview of what’s to come, the Jaguars offense has taken a major overhaul. Jump balls and fades are a thing of the past and the new revamped offense will include much shorter and quicker routes which will allow QB David Garrard get the ball out of his hands faster and into the hands of his playmakers who can make something happen after the catch.
For this offensive scheme to work, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and QB David Garrard needed some new weapons.
Last year’s starting WRs Reggie Williams and Matt Jones couldn’t get any separation from defenders. They both ran lazy routes and were tackled almost immediately after the catch.
For the 2008 season, Reggie Williams averaged only 9.8 yards per catch and near the bottom of the league with a sorry 2.0 YAC (yards after the catch). Matt Jones was not much better.
David Garrard, meet your new receivers.
#80 - Mike Thomas
Height: 5’ 8” Weight: 193 lbs. 40-time: 4.29
Thomas is a rookie WR out of Arizona who was a team elected captain and four year starter. He was first team all PAC-10 as both a WR and kick returner and set the conference receiving record with 259 catches. He averaged 12.5 yards per catch and had 27 total touchdowns. Thomas finished 3rd of all WRs at the NFL scouting combine in the vetical leap (40.5"), the 3 cone drill (6.65 seconds), and the broad jump (10' 6"). If you are wondering who finished 1st and 2nd, they are the next two guys listed here. This is an athletic group.
#87 – Jarrett Dillard
Height: 5’ 11” Weight: 185 lbs. 40-time: 4.50
Dillard is a rookie WR out of Rice who was a team elected captain and four year starter. Dillard set an NCAA record for catching a TD in 13 consecutive games. He averaged 15.1 yards per catch and had 60 total TDs which is an NCAA all-time record. That's impressive. Dillard is more quick than fast and runs some of the best routes and has maybe the best hands of any WR in this draft class. Dillard also had the highest vertical leap of any WR at the combine with a 42.5” jump and tied for 1st with a 10’ 9” broad jump. In Rice's game vs. Texas, Dillard averaged 17.6 yards per catch. (Crabtree averaged 12.7 vs. the same defense) I'm just saying...
#19 – Tiquan Underwood
Height: 6’ 1” Weight: 180 lbs. 40-time: 4.29
Underwood is a rookie WR out of Rutgers who was a team elected captain and three year starter. Underwood can fly as he showed with his 4.29 second 40-time at his Proday. He also had the best timed score at the NFL scouting combine with a 6.62 second 3 cone drill. Underwood also tied for 1st with a 10’9” broad jump and finished 2nd of all WRs with a 41.5” vertical leap.
#81 – Torry Holt
Height: 6’ 0” Weight: 190 lbs. 40-time: 4.34 (1999)
Holt is a veteran WR who is closing in on Hall of Fame status. He has 869 catches for 12,660 yards and 74 TDs for his career. Holt is just 15 catches and 539 yards shy of cracking the top ten all time in both of those respective statistical categories. He may not run his 4.34 anymore, but Holt has some of the best hands and runs some of the tightest routes in the league.
There is one thing in common with all of these receivers and that is production. They all run tight crisp routes, know how to get open, and all have a nose for the endzone. They more than make up for their vertically challenged stature by being both athletic and intelligent.
All 3 rookie WRs, like the rest of the Jaguars 2009 draft class, will have their college degrees by June and finished with strong GPAs. Dillard actually graduated in May of 2008 and is already enrolled in graduate school.
All 3 rookie WRs consistently finished in the top 3 in all the drill at the combine. In the vertical leap in particular, the Jaguars new WRs finished 1, 2, and 3. Dillard had the highest vertical leap of all WRs at the combine (42.5 in.) with Underwood and Thomas finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively.
If the new weapons weren’t enough, WR Mike walker is finally healthy. Just two years ago he was being called the next Jimmy Smith by some, but he just can't seem to stay healthy. Walker looked good in least weeks mini-camp and caught everything thrown his way. He could use a little luck at this point.
The Jaguars will also have a new and improved signal caller on the field. His name is still David Garrard, but he has dropped 25 pounds and looked slim, trim, and quick in last week’s mini-camp. Full mini-camp report.
Add to that, a totally new and beefed up offensive line for Garrard to work behind. The additions of Rookie OTs Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton and signing veteran OT Tra Thomas has turned one of last year's major weekness into a strength. With Meester and Mo Williams back and Manuwai expected back by training camp, this O-Line is stacked.
This offense will look different alright both physically philosophically. Instead of watching Garrard wait 4 and 5 seconds looking for a WR who was never going to get open, you should expect him to get rid of the ball in 2 or 3 seconds into the hands of his playmakers.
Where last year the WRs would fall at the spot of the catch, this year’s group of WRs will be able to take that 5 yard slant not only for a first down, but possible break one all the way.
Jack Del Rio seems to have parked the big SUV of an offense and rolled out the smaller, quicker, and polished Lamborghini. Training camp can’t come soon enough to see this new offense in action as it should be fun to watch.
-Photo of Jarrett Dillard from mini-camp 5/01/09 by John Vetsch