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The Jacksonville Jaguars Stronger, Meaner, Healthier

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The Jacksonville Jaguars Stronger, Meaner, Healthier
(Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

THE 2008 JAGUARS SEASON RECAP

Potential Super Bowl Representative. Finally ready to replace the Colts atop the AFC South. Ranked No. 5 in the preseason power rankings by ESPN. That was the story of the 2008 Jacksonville Jaguars. That is, before the season began.

The season started with massive injuries on the offensive line, expensive free agents who cashed their checks before cashing out, and, most devestatingly, the near murder of a teammate. 

The Jaguars responded to all of this with a lackluster season. Their first five losses came by seven points or less, including many in the last minutes of the game. Late in the season, the effort made seemed a little absent. They ended the season 5-10 and a last place finish in their division.

The 2008 Jaguars were hurt by injuries, under-performances, sudden loss of their vaulted running game, and a defense that was exposed as soft with a scheme that didn't suit their talents.

 

THE 2009 JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

The 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars promise to be the complete opposite of last year. Gone are the underacheiving free agents Jerry Porter and Drayton Florence. First round busts like Matt Jones and Reggie Williams can take their soft play, along with their drug dependences, to another team.

Well-respected, but aging and expensive players like Fred Taylor and Mike Peterson were also released.

These were the first steps by the Jaguars towards a new team philosophy. Getting younger, stronger, and more talented without sacrificing character. The free agents brought in, along with the inspired draft choices, solidify that direction.


FREE AGENTS

The Jaguars made only two significant free agent signings over the off-season, but they speak volumes. OT Tra Thomas and WR Torry Holt are not young. They may only be with the team for one to two years at the most. They are players, though, with great experience, good character, and will be outstanding locker room leaders.

 

2009 JAGUARS DRAFT

The Jaguars stated clearly that they had a draft board made up of athletes that were talented yet didn't sacrifice character. New GM Gene Smith, who got his start at the foot of Tom Coughlin, stated that they would not deviate from their board, no matter how tempting.

This was proven when their first selection was on the clock and WR Michael Crabtree was still available. Though Crabtree was the "sexy" pick, Smith stuck to his board and drafted OT Eugene Monroe, a massive man who could play left tackle for many years. A message was sent immediately to the Jaguar fans. The organization was going to do it right this time.

The rest of the draft went smoothly. Here's a quick recap :

2nd Round  OT Eben Britten: First round talent who can play every position on the line. The chip on his shoulder from being snubbed could reap benefits.

3rd Round  DT Terrance Knighton: Big take-up-space player that will hopefully fill the gap left by Marcus Stroud's departure.

CB Derek Cox: Small college but big performer. Hopefully will allow Brian Williams to move back to the safety position. Jags traded their 2010 second round pick for him so he better contribute immediately.

4th Round   WR Mike Thomas: Smallish slot receiver. Should aid special teams immediately. All-time reception leader in Pac-10 history. I envision a "DeSean Jackson" type performer.

5th Round   WR Jarett Dillard: Precise route-running possession WR. Left Rice University as the leading TD scoring WR in NCAA history. Could start immediately if veterans fail.

6th Round   TE Zach Miller: Former QB convert. Good size yet very quick. Should be a project that sees the practice squad.

7th Round   RB Rashad Jennings: Small-college superstar. Big and physical, he should be the perfect compliment to Maurice Jones-Drew. Might be ready for goal-line carries. Real value pick.

WR Tiquan Underwood : Fast, fast, fast. Needs a little seasoning before he will be ready for the pro game but has game-breaking hops.

                            

POSITIVES FOR THE 2009 JAGUARS SEASON

Offensive Line

This was an area of great concern after last year's disaster. A position that ended last year as a liability, per free agency and the draft, is now a position of depth. If the rookies come through, it could be our strength.


Linebacker Corp

A young, fast, and talented group of athletes. The loss of Mike Peterson and the questionable move of Justin Durant to the middle causes me to take pause, but the core three starters are servicable and have gained another years experience under their belt.

 

Quarterback

A strength two years ago. A bust last year. Which role will David Garrard play this year? I believe he will resume his good play because things just can't be as bad as they were last year.

The line will be healthy and strong. The running game should resume its success, taking pressure off the passing game. The WRs are improved, with a deep threat finally in the mix. Garrard has also shed 15 pounds off his frame making him an even more dangerous running threat. I expect big things from Garrard this season.

 

NEGATIVES FOR THE 2009 JAGUARS SEASON

Defensive Line

The loss of Marcus Stroud still lingers at DT. The young DEs drafted last year didn't make their mark. Opposing QB's were only missing a fruity drink and umbrella, they had so much time in the pocket. 

DEs Derrick Harvey (who was coming on at the end of the season) and Quintin Groves should improve in their second year to improve that position. Hopefully rookie DT Knighton and a bulked up Derek Landri will help slow down the opposing teams RBs. Training camp will say a lot to whether another lineman will be brought in via free agency.

 

Back-up Quarterback 

Cleo Lemon was brought in last year from the Dolphins. To say he underwhelmed the coaching staff and fans would be an understatement. Now in his second year with the Jags, rumors are circulating that he still hasn't comprehended the playbook entirely.

If this is true, we are one bad hit from having a liability behind center in a real game situation. That is scary.

The draft didn't cooperate in helping us find a young QB to mold, and the one brought in as a rookie free agent was cut within 2 weeks. This is an area that must be addressed before the season begins. Prepare for the Jags to snap up the first capable game-experienced QB that is cut before the season starts.

 

Placekicker

Which Josh Scobee will show up in 2009? Will it the the potential All-pro kicker who by week ten had made 15 of 17 FG attempts, including four from over 50 yards, along with ten kickoff touchbacks?

Will it be the one instead who for the remainder of the season only made 4 of 8 attempts with no touchbacks? No serious move has been made to bring in a replacement so the coaching staff must still have faith in his ability. Let's hope they are correct.

 

QUESTION MARKS FOR THE 2009 JAGUARS SEASON

Running Backs

This is a BIG question mark for this season. The Jaguars recently renegotiated the contract of RB Maurice Jones-Drew to prevent him from becoming free agent eligible. They are now paying him a contract that ranks with the top 5 running backs in the NFL.

On the meret of production, scoring, and team popularity, it was a no-brainer move that had to be done and I condone it. But it is still scary paying this amount of money to a player who has never consistantly been the primary back and is very small by NFL standards.

I will put my faith in one of the best RBs in the league and predict Jones-Drew will answer his critics with a healthy, successful season.

This will only happen if Greg Jones can step in to allow "Mo-Jo" a breather. Rookie RB Jennings making an immediate contribution would be wonderful also. Finally, improved lineplay and WR consistancy would help most of all.

 

Wide Receivers 

While the signing of Torry Holt cleans up some of the mess left by last year's ridiculous crew (Jerry Porter, Matt Jones, Reggie Williams), a lot will need to go right for this years corp to be successful.

Mike Walker will need to stay healthy and show some of the ability he showed in the Pittsburgh game where he went off for 6 catches for 107 yards. Dennis Northcutt will need to be that guy who can get open on 3rd down and MAKE THE CATCH.

The Jags drafted three WRs in the draft. One of them needs to step up and make an immediate impression. The Jags history of drafting WRs over the course of their franchise has been abysmal. For some reason, I like these guys and have high hopes for their success.

 

MY FORECAST FOR THE 2009 JAGUAR SEASON

Let me start by saying I thought the Jags were a playoff team last year, with a distinct chance at a Super Bowl run. I was fooled like everyone else. Last year was an amazingly painful year to witness not because of the losing, but because of the general lack of effort.

Too many prima-donnas. Too many fat contracts. Way too soft. Not enough tough guys. Too many thugs & "me-first" guys. 

Everything the Jags have done this off-season leads me to believe I will not suffer though last season again. Free agents who will be team leaders. Malcontents shoved away like a bad steak. Rookie drafted without rapsheets.

This year's squad is reminding me of Jaguars teams of the past where you could feel good about being a fan. Let's just hope it translate to the field.

I predict the Jaguars, benefiting from a last place finish schedule, will finish with 11 wins this year. Key wins will include a season-opening win at Indianapolis, a home victory over NFC champion Arizona, and a home victory over Tennessee.

In fact, I believe the Jags could be undefeated coming into their week 7 bye. A road game out west in Seattle could be tough on an east coast team and be their first loss.

The losses will probably come at Tennessee, home against Buffalo (we struggle against them for some reason), home against the Colts (primetime game = primetime Peyton) and on the road at New England.

I am not being a "homer" with this prediction. If you look at the schedule, it plays out very favorably to the Jaguars.

With the Colts getting another year older, the Titans still inconsistant at QB, and the Texans...well, just being the Texans, I feel the Jacksonville Jaguars will have a successful season.

How the Jags do in the post-season is impossible to predict without knowing the other teams involved. We'll cross that bridge when we reach it. It is a bridge that needs to be reached to insure Jack Del Rio remains our coach. 

Regardless, I have complete confidence that the Jaguars will return to being a fun team to watch. A team that fights hard from whistle to gun.

With "heros", not personalities. A team that will appreciate victories. A team that will feel the sting when they lose. A team that Jaguar fans can be proud of. That, I'm telling you,  would be a WONDERFUL thing.

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