The Jacksonville Jaguars have had quite a bit of roster movement for a team that insists it is not rebuilding. To date, 12 players who started at some point last season have either been traded, released, or allowed to leave through free agency.
That figure may continue to rise as younger, cheaper players compete with more expensive veterans at both offensive tackle positions, and at safety and cornerback.
When the dust settles, the Jaguars could see as many as 15 new faces starting for them on opening day.
It would take very little for the 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars to show improvement over last season. A record of 5-11 establishes a low threshold for improvement in 2009.
How the team fares this season will determine whether or not the critics will continue to hammer away at the team. It could also be a major factor in whether or not the head coach gets more time to continue his quest for a title in Jacksonville.
Most of the moves have received positive feedback and little criticism. Gene Smith has done a good job of establishing a standard for getting rid of players with the potential to serve as a distraction, replacing them with quality individuals.
Still, 15vnew starters is a lot of turnover for any team, and it creates a distinct set of challenges for a team trying to rebound from a disappointing season in one of the most difficult divisions in the NFL.
Character certainly counts for something, but in the end it is wins and losses that ultimately determine whether the moves were right.
With so much change, what will determine whether all of the effort was successful or not for the Jaguars?
Will one additional win be enough?
Will a winning season satisfy the critics?
Does the team need to return to the playoffs to make this a successful rebuilding effort in 2009?
And what if the Jaguars fail to show significant improvement in their record this year? Will the head coach still have a job? Will there be even more significant change to the roster and coaching staff as a result?
To the savvy football fan, any improvement over last season would be a welcome outcome even if it means another losing season.
There were many areas where the team simply broke down last year. Marked improvement in those areas may not make a dent in the wins and losses, but it will provide some hope things are moving in the right direction.
For those fans who are not quite as versed, the standard is different. Their expectations range from a non-losing season to a deep playoff run.
While that sounds great, it is hardly realistic to think this team could turn things around quickly enough to make significant strides.
In a perfect world, the Jaguars would find a way to leverage all of the changes into a winning record with a playoff berth. We all know things rarely go perfectly.
What is an honest expectation for the Jags as they enter 2009?
Because of the significant number of changes that have taken place on the roster, in the front office, and among the coaching staff, the Jaguars are a better team on paper.
But, paper does not always equate to success where it counts. The record will be the deciding factor in whether or not the changes worked.
Based on the moves so far, the Jaguars should see their fortunes improve. Still, it will be the type of improvement that will satiate the football purist but not the fair weather fan.
The Jaguars will begin the process of getting the situation under control. The end result will be a two or three win swing for the team. While that does not sound encouraging, it will be the way they end the season that should provide a great deal of hope for the future.
The team will steadily improve throughout the year as the younger players gain necessary experience and become more accustomed to the NFL.
As this improvement takes hold, the Jaguars will regain their position as one of the better teams in the league, especially on defense.
The team may not make it to the playoffs this season, but they will certainly play a deciding factor as to which teams will represent their conference in the post-season.
The Jaguars are still at least a year away from returning to the post-season, but the improved play will win over fans as the season progresses.
Will a .500 record be enough to provide Jack Del Rio with job security?
It all hinges on how the team shows improvement, and particularly how they finish the season. If Jack Del Rio can get the younger players to play up to their potential, the team should start to hit stride later in the season.
If that happens, it will go a long way toward assuring Del Rio of another season at the helm in Jacksonville.
Look for the Jaguars to find a way to get back to an eight-win team. It will not land them in the playoffs, or even get them out of the cellar in the AFC South. But, it will set a trend for the team that will set the table for 2010 and beyond.
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