Jacksonville Jaguars 2009 Preview

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Jacksonville Jaguars 2009 Preview
(Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
32 Teams in 32 Days
2008 Summary
David Garrard went tat for tat with MVP Tom Brady that fateful Saturday evening in January. But the eventual AFC Champions had too much firepower for the Jaguars, and a great effort was thought to be the precursor to an even deeper run in 2008.

Then the Jags would come screaming back to Earth.

Injury after injury would plague the Jags offensive line, the defense would regress, and the lack of a decent wide receiving threat would begin to take its toll on a promising season.

For the Jacksonville Jaguars, if you wanted to sum up their 2008 season, the word you would use is "disappointment".

And why not? After being within a touchdown of the undefeated Patriots late in the Divisional Round it seemed like the Jags were the team that was about to make the leap. David Garrard almost refused to turn the ball over in 2007, only throwing 3 picks during the year while completing 64% of his passes.

But those numbers also would come with the benefit of strong outputs of the Jags dynamic duo at running back in Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, as each back would account for over 1200 yards of total offense.

2008 was a different story for Jacksonville. Fred Taylor looked like his older self, only rushing for 556 yards and a single touchdown behind a decimated offensive line that saw both starting guards Vince Manuwai and Maurice Williams go down with season ending injuries, starting center Brad Meester miss the first six games of the season and tragically lost backup tackle Richard Collier after Collier was the victim of a shooting incident that left him paralyzed from the waist down with his left leg amputated.

Maurice Jones-Drew for all intents and purposes had a pretty solid year, but was also not the same explosive all-purpose back we had become accustomed to seeing, in large part because of the injury problems on the Jags line.
While Jones-Drew carried the ball 30 more times and scored 12 touchdowns on the ground, his yards per carry dropped to a career low 4.2 yards. He also added another 565 yards and 2 touchdowns receiving.

Despite all the injuries on offense, the Jags defense may have been the most disappointing element of their 2008 season. In 2007 the Jags defense was a solid 15th overall against the pass, but in 2008 they were only 24th in pass defense—surrendering just under 225 yards a game through the air.

Rashean Mathis had another fine season for the Jags, recording 4 interceptions, but the rest of the secondary was gouged and gouged repeatedly as of the 39 touchdowns scored against the Jacksonville defense a season ago—25 of those came through the air.

What all of this led to was a very up and down Jacksonville team to start the season, as they opened the year 4-5 and wound up losing six of their last seven contests to close the season 5-11, leaving the Jags as the only AFC South team with a losing record.

That record could be deceiving though as a wounded and overall banged up Jaguars team would lose six of those 11 contests by 7 points or less.

Which ironically was the difference in wins and losses from the 2007 season.

2009 Free Agency Additions
WR Torry Holt (St. Louis)
T Tra Thomas (Philadelphia)
S Marlon McCree (Denver)
S Sean Considine (Philadelphia)
QB Todd Bouman (Baltimore)

2009 Trade Acquisitions
None

2009 Offseason Departures
RB Fred Taylor (New England)
OT Khalif Barnes (Oakland)
LB Mike Peterson (Atlanta)
S Gerald Sensabaugh (Dallas)
CB Drayton Florence (Buffalo)
DE Paul Spicer (New Orleans)
TE George Wrighster (New York Giants)
S Pierson Prioleau (New Orleans)
G Tuten Reyes (New York Giants)
WR Matt Jones (Cut)
WR Reggie Williams (Unsigned)
WR Jerry Porter (Cut)

2009 NFL Draft:
1-8. Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
2-39. Eben Britton, OT, Arizona
3-72. Terrance Knighton, DT, Temple
3-73. Derek Cox, CB, William & Mary
4-107. Mike Thomas, WR/KR, Arizona
5-144. Jarett Dillard, WR, Rice
6-180. Zach Miller, TE, Nebraska-Omaha
7-250. Rashad Jennings, RB, Liberty
7-253. Tiquan Underwood, WR, Rutgers

2009 Outlook
Jack Del Rio returns in 2009, perhaps feeling his seat get a little warmer following an extremely disappointing outing a year ago. The team will have an entirely new look in 2009, literally, as they will showcase new uniforms this season.

But the new rags won't be the only new addition to this Jacksonville team. After injuries decimated the Jaguar offensive line in 2008, Jags GM Gene Smith made it a point to make sure that doesn't duplicate itself again in 2009.
Smith signed veteran tackle Tra Thomas to a deal in the offseason then added tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton in the draft. With guards Vince Manuwai and Maurice Williams returning from season ending injuries a year ago, one of the new rookie Jag tackles could very well see some time at that position.

At running back, Maurice Jones-Drew will now be the main guy as longtime Jag Fred Taylor left in free agency for the Patriots. Jones-Drew will be joined in the backfield by Greg Jones.

At wide receiver, perhaps the Jaguars biggest weakness a season ago, the Jags completely overhauled the depth chart at this position. Gone are first round busts Matt Jones and Reggie Williams and free agent disaster Jerry Porter. Torry Holt was signed to fill one vacated spot, but Jacksonville still looks dangerously thin at the position.
Rounding out the new Jags depth chart will be Dennis Northcutt, Troy Williamson, and Mike Walker. Rookies Jarrett Dillard, and Mike Thomas should also see some playing time as the Jags try to find guys to play alongside Holt.

Defensively, the Jaguars will look very similar to what they did last season. They did however add two veteran safeties to their roster via free agency in Marlon McCree and Sean Considine.
Locker room nuisance Mike Peterson was released and wound up signing in Atlanta, but the Jags linebacking corps should be the strength of the Jacksonville defense with Daryl Smith and Clint Ingram being the highlights here.
Jacksonville will also hope to see much better play out of their young defensive line, showcased mainly by Derrick Harvey, their first round pick from a season ago.

2009 Schedule:
Sun 9/13 at Indianapolis
Sun 9/20 Arizona
Sun 9/27 at Houston
Sun 10/4 Tennessee
Sun 10/11 at Seattle
Sun 10/18 St. Louis
  bye
Sun 11/1 at Tennessee
Sun 11/8 Kansas City
Sun 11/15 at NY Jets
Sun 11/22 Buffalo
Sun 11/29 at San Francisco
Sun 12/6 Houston
Sun 12/13 Miami
Thu 12/17 Indianapolis
Sun 12/27 at New England
Sun 1/3 at Cleveland
Sun 12/13 at Minnesota
Sun 12/20 at San Diego
Sun 12/27 Kansas City
Sun 1/3 at NY Jets

2009 Prediction:
There's good news and bad news for the Jaguar faithful.

The good news is, this is a team that should not duplicate it's 5-11 record from a year ago. It should not be understated how hard injuries hit the Jacksonville offensive line, causing the Jags to almost instantaneously lose their biggest strengths as a whole.

The bad news is, while this team will improve, there are still some undeniable weaknesses on the roster that I believe they failed to address completely, particularly at wide receiver.
Torry Holt is on his last legs, literally and figuratively, and the guys playing behind him are very average at best. Maurice Jones-Drew also will now be asked to carry the workload a lot more than he has, and it's hard to say how well he can handle being an every down back for the first time in his career.

It also doesn't help that the Jags play in the strongest division in the AFC, and arguably the strongest division in all of football, a division that could very well field three playoff teams in 2009.

One of those three could be the Jaguars if they strike gold in the passing game and turn it around on defense.

Realistically speaking though, one of those three playoff teams will not be the Jacksonville Jaguars, as the weaknesses in the passing game will be too much to overcome in this strong AFC South

Predicted Finish: 7-9, 4th AFC South
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Hassellbeck - VSN Writer
www.virtualsportsnetwork.com
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