The Jacksonville Jaguars went into the 2008 football season with the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy.
On offense, they were going to run often, protect the ball, win the time of possession battle, and demoralize the opposition's defense.
The defense would keep the ball in front of them at all times. They would allow no long plays. The basic "bend don't break" idea.
We all know now that circumstances, some within the Jags control and some not, proved they were incapable of either of those lofty goals.
The offense was decimated by lineman injuries, which made our vaunted running game non-existent. The lack of a running game exposed the Jags pitiful receiver corp. The horrible receivers made for a timid and rushed quarterback, who responded with multiple turnovers. It wasn't a pretty picture.
The defense was horrible last year because the Jaguars underestimated the importance of defensive tackle Marcus Stroud. Feeling his injuries were piling up, while his age and salary demands were increasing, the Jags traded Stroud and discovered that John Henderson, the other Jaguar All-pro DT, was incapable of handling his duties without Stroud. This translated to a defensive line that couldn't stop the run.
When that happens, the linbackers have to move closer to the line, making the defense very susceptible to the pass. With defensive ends that were never intimidating to begin with, it proved even more damaging to our defensive backs.
All this added up to a weak defense that kept other offenses on the field for long drawn out drives that kills the momentum on both sides of the ball.
The Jaguars spent this off-season attempting to rectify their shortcomings with the draft, free agency, and the waiver wire. These athletes will have a direct effect on different formations on both sides of the ball.
The offense has been the most effected area this off season. The addition of offensive linemen Tre Thomas, Eugene Monroe, and Eben Britton will enable Jack Del Rio more freedom with the short yardage and goal-line formations.
End positions that may have been filled by tight ends will probably be manned by multiple tackles. It isn't as if Del Rio has tried to fool defenses with this formation. Mostly it's been "You know it's coming. Try to stop me".
I believe we will see much more split formations to get some of these new young wide receivers on the field. New acquisition Torry Holt and returning veteran Dennis Northcutt are confident in the middle of the field.
This will allow speedsters like Mike Thomas and Tiquan Underwood to provide the Jaguars with their first deep threats since Jimmy Smith retired. Add in a healthy Mike Walker and we may see four wide receiver alignments.
The Jaguars have made a few moves on defense to improve their chances of running a Del Rio style. The most important movement was the removal of Greg Williams as defensive coordinator.
His complicated blitz packages caused the Jags secondary to be stuck in single coverage for way too long. The defense will now go back to the "Cover 2" package that brought them success just two years ago.
The addition of rookie Terrance Knighton gives the Jaguars a big three hundred seventeen pound force to help tie up lineman so our fast and physical linebackers can flow to ball.
This move should prevent our linebackers from having to hedge towards the line on running plays, and also open up more single blocking schemes on passing downs so our defensive ends can apply more quarterback pressure.
New cornerbacks brought in by the draft and waiver wire will make a big difference also. The impressive rookie Derek Cox is already looking like he might be NFL ready.
Cornerback Tyron Brackenridge, recently claimed off waivers, is experienced and adds depth to a position where it was lacking.
The most important change comes with Brian Williams being able to return to the safety position. Last year proved that Reggie Nelson, an outstanding free safety, needs a competent strong safety on the other side of the field.
Williams still has fantastic coverage skills so it will be like having three corners on the field on passing downs. Four with a nickle package.
The Jaguars of 2009 should be much more similar to the Jags of 2007. Running with confidence. Killing the clock while keeping the opposing team's offense on the sidelines. Better protection of the quarterback causing far less turnovers.
A defense that tries to exert their will. Creating turnovers and putting points on the board. Knocking someone on their ass.
With the off season moves made by the Jaguars, I see no reason why they shouldn't be successful.
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