This year, Jags fans will notice a few changes. First, are the new, simplified uniforms. Gone are the variations (black on black, white on white), the Jags will be playing in teal on white or white on black uniforms. The helmet's reminiscent of a bass boat, sparkling and appearing to change colors under different lights.
However, the changes are not all cosmetic. A few major things happened under the hood as well.
Most significantly, career Jag and future Hall of Famer, Fred Taylor has been released.
Taylor, a team captain, saw reduced action last season as the team moved forward with current running back, Maurice Jones–Drew.
The ramifications of this move will be present from the start. The 5' 7" Jones–Drew will be given "feature back" status, a rarity in the current tandem–friendly NFL.
However, Jones–Drew will not shoulder all of the rushing responsibilities. Head coach Jack Del Rio envisions FB Greg Jones carrying the ball in an increased capacity. A Florida Times Union article claims Del Rio wants to get Jones the ball five to ten times per game.
This Jones–Drew led rushing attack will still primarily focus on "smashmouth" football. Don't expect too much "Wildcat"; Greg Jones' most impressive attribute is his blocking out of the I–Formation. Del Rio will try to get the two backs on the field as often as possible.
One mid–major side effect of Jones–Drew taking full reign of the running game will be a new kick returner.
While he did not take the majority of the returns last year, the Jags cannot afford to have No. 32 taking unnecessary shots. Witherspoon will have to share this load with someone else
The end of Taylor's Jags career did not prove to be the only major ripple in the Jags' offseason. The addition of All–Pro receiver Torry Holt provides some much needed stability at the WR position.
Since the retirement of Jimmy Smith, the Jags have searched for a No. 1 wide receiver. Holt has the hands, brains, and ability to do just that.
Even in his 12th year, Holt will prove to be the Jags' best intermediate threat, and while he may not run the deep route as often, Garrard will have a consistent, go–to receiver for the first time in his career as a starter.
Look for far more passing out of the 2009 Jags. The one–two punch of Holt and Lewis will open up the short passing game for Jones–Drew to exploit. Jones–Drew has been an effective pass catching RB and with less of the attention focused on him, look for him to continue to utilize this strength.
However, the most visually apparent change may be the switch in defensive schemes.
With the hiring of former Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, the Jags have a very real shot of turning into a 3–4 defense this year. Even though a permanent switch is not likely, look for the team to use the scheme throughout the season.
If a switch is to be made, the Jags have some positions to fill, the biggest (literally) being the 3–4 nose tackle. John Henderson seems to be most fit to fill this role (no pun intended) and Terrance Knighton may also see action in the formation.
The defensive ends remain a bit more tricky. Derrick Harvey and Reggie Hayward are the only ends with enough size to play a 3–4 scheme. Quentin Groves will likely move to OLB with Jeremy Mincey.
While the Jags can certainly field a 3–4, the scheme looks a little shallow. The Jags will have to find a decent set of rotational players to make a full switch.
These changes may prove to be just the tune-up the Jags need to get back on top of the AFC South.
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