Jacksonville Jaguars: Off the Radar too Early?

Tim HigginsCorrespondent IJune 1, 2009

JACKSONVILLE, FL - MAY 1:  Running back Maurice Jones-Drew #32  of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs upfield during a team mini-camp on May 1, 2009 on the practice fields at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Set the stage to July 2008.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are being claimed as a favorite to compete for, if not win the Super Bowl.

Now it is June 2009 and the Jaguars are being claimed as a favorite to compete for, if not fiinish as the last seed in a strong AFC south division. 

What happened?

In the begining of last season Jacksonville lost most of its offensive line in a game versus the Tennesse Titains, lost their main financial offseason investment during the training camps (Jerry Porter), lost all chemistry of a strong team, and quickly flew off the map for a contender in the AFC.

But what if we erased last year?

Think about it.

David Garrard is coming off an 18 TD, 3 INT season, and hopes sail for how this team could do.

Maurice Jones Drew is back and now taking on a full fledged responsibility at running back, while Rashard Jennings is a promising seventh round draft pick—and let us remember that while at Pitt, he was slated to be what LeSean Mccoy was. He only transfered to Liberty because of family relationships.

The offensive line is studded with Brad Meester, Tra Thomas, Eugene Monroe, Eben Eritton, and Vince Manuai, to name a few. Garrard can sit back and disect defenses all day.

Jerry Porter in his prime is less then Tory Holt is now. Let us remember that Tory was in St. Louis, who was worse then the Jaguars.

Remove disaster picks such as Reggie Williams and Matt Jones, and add Pac-10 record holder Mike Thomas, and record breaking reciever Jarred Dillard, who has been underestimated for years. Plus add a healthy Mike Walker, who had a fantastic game against Pittsburg last year, and this wide reciever core is looking way way up.

Tight End is still somewhat of a concern, but everyone has a down year. Marcedes Lewis should still deserve another year or two to rebound, but if he catches the ball he can be a very strong threat.

Although letting go of Mike Peterson hurts this team, they have played without him before and played no worse then with him. Head Coach Jack Del Rio was a linebacker in the NFL, and he obviously sees something in these guys. Plus, this unit had most of the tackles last year.

Secondary was one of the many Achilles Heels of this team last year, but they have improved this year. Note that many players said that Greg Williams' defense was confusing and could have caused the decrease in production from key defensive players, especially in the secondary.

Although regarded as a stupid pick by many, everyone who has watched Jaguars training camp has reported that Derek Cox is playing amazing. Rashin Mathis deja vu?  If that is the case, then Cox could help make the secondary a somewhat strong part of this team.

Defensive Line is a big if. If the two second year DEs can step up; if reggie hayward can return to form; if Henderson can dominate once again; if elllison mier, landri, or knighton can step up; then the defensive line could go back to domination.

Although the special teams unite fumbled multiple times, Brain Witherspoon did provide a spark on kickoff and punt returns. He will need to step up, but this team also has other potential special teams stars in Montell Owens, Shaun Considine, and Zach Miller—who just screams special teams player. 

Josh Scobee has been off-and-on, but has played well most of the time, and Adam Podelesh should continue to grow. 

The Jacksonville Jaguars also have always been an off-the-radar team. When people expect them to win, they dont, when people dont expect them to, they do. So this season screams winning.

Bottom line—the Jaguars are much improved from last year, and the only team in their division that has gotten better (not that the Colts and Titans aren't going to be good) is the Texans.

So if the jaguars can win some close games, they could easily become this year's cinderella team. However, nothing can be said for sure until about five games into the season.

My Prediction: 10-6, wild card berth, upset victory in the wild card, but lose in the divisional round.