Coming off a season of disappointment there is no doubt that some changes were in the works this off-season for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
While coach Del Rio's approach and smash mouth style will likely be utilized quite a bit some changes in player and coaching personnel will give the Jaguars a bit of a different look in all three facets of the game. As expected the Jaguars did make some major moves that will impact this team and how they move ahead for 2009.
The most significant move from a player standpoint is without question the release of running back Fred Taylor. After a decade in Jacksonville the club released him in the off-season citing his 6 million dollar cap hit and wanting to get younger as the prime reason for letting the long-time running back go.
The loss of Taylor means Maurice Jones-Drew is now the unquestioned go to guy in the backfield, so expect him to see between 20-30 touches of the ball in the game. Offensively that means they will likely line up more in a single back formation with Jones-Drew slotted in the backfield behind Garrard.
With Jones-Drew as the main man you may see them line up alot less in the I formation or the dual HB formation than you saw in previous years when Taylor and Jones-Drew were so effective for years.
Expect the Jaguars to go down field a little more than they usually do however with the major signing of Torrey Holt from the Rams. The loss of Matt Jones and Reggie Williams means they may not go as much to a short or medium range passing game that they have been able to do so effectively.
There may also be alot of shotgun formations this season with Holt a legitimate deep ball threat that they have not had in a long time in Jacksonville. The shotgun formation could be a very deceptive and effective play for the Jags this season as Garrard has shown to be very effective running the ball and another consistent year for Troy Williamson could see the Jaguars trying more to stretch the defence vertically.
With Mike Tice still in the mix as an assistant and Tight ends coach expect the likes of Mercedes Lewis and Richard Angulo to see lots of passes thrown their way with some more TE swap and slot formations.
In short yardage goal line formations expect to see Maurice Jones-Drew mostly working to keep drives alive but also look to Greg Jones to get some more carries to help take some pressure off Jones-Drew.
David Garrard will make them that more dangerous in short yardage situation with his running ability and expect Del Rio to gamble alot in fourth down and short situations as the Jags in 07 were among the best in fourth down conversions.
On Special Teams Russ Purnell an old colleague of Del Rio in Baltimore should improve the Jaguars particularly in the return game. Dennis Northcutt is back once again looking to improve his stats from last season and Jones-Drew is as explosive a kick returner as any Jacksonville kick returner past or present.
Purnell brings a winning attitude as he is only 1 of 21 active NFL coaches to win a Super Bowl with two different teams accomplishing the feat in 06 with the Colts and in 2000 with the Baltimore Ravens. In that time period he has coached six players who have earned Pro Bowl selections.
His experience will be invaluable to the likes of kicker Josh Scobee who has shown he can make the crucial field goal to win a game. Expect a more aggressive approach to the Jags in both the return game and the coverage game on special teams.
On defense the Jaguars got rid of Coordinator Greg Williams who is widely considered one of the best defensive minds in the game. The new man in charge is Mel Tucker who spent the past three season in Cleveland under Romeo Crenell.
Tucker will likely bring some very different defensive schemes in Jacksonville than former coordinator Greg Williams put in last season. Williams was known for being a wonderful defensive lines man, frequently going with a 4-3 scheme and several blitz packages to try and force some quarterback sacks and hurries.
Mel Tucker couldn't be more different in his thinking as he was renowned in Cleveland for having a very aggressive secondary that could disguise coverage brilliantly and shift momentum of a game very quickly.
This could bode well for the likes of Rashean Mathis and Reggie Nelson who are as in your face as they get for secondary players.
The release of Paul Spicer and Mike Peterson would indicate a different defensive approach focused more on confusing the quarterback with blanket and disguised coverages rather than pressure from the front four in causing a fumble or a sack.
Last season Tucker's defense in Cleveland was third in the league with 31 takeaways, something that should drastically help the secondary of Jacksonville that has been really burned badly in the pass game.
Look for some solid 3-4 formations as John Henderson and Reggie Hayward will be counted on to continue Jacksonville track record of outstanding play against the run.
However there should be alot more nickel and dime formations than in previous years for the Jags as they should be much tougher to defend on the deep pass and will hope to create alot more turnovers next season.
A much different look to the Jaguars this season will be interesting to see how they show up and play. With some new faces both on an off the field they appear to be improved in many of their areas of struggle last season but their are still many question marks on this team as they embark on the 2009 season.
Can this offence recover from a dreadful running game last season and still be effective playing their smash mouth football? How will the losses of Spicer and Peterson affect their blitz schemes and their great run defense? How will Torrey Holt fit in to a team that has been known more for their running and short to medium ranger passing?
Will the defence be able to buy in and adjust to the new schemes Mel Tucker brings with him? And how will the team gel with all the new faces on the team and new coaches? These are just some of the questions that will be facing the Jaguars as the look to return to their winning ways in 2009.