For some reason, ever since wide receiver Jimmy Smith retired the Jacksonville Jaguars have been on a downhill slide. They had a good year a couple years ago, but last year they went back to their slump.
The team’s problems did not occur just on the field, but also off the field. It started in September when offensive tackle Richard Collier was shot some 14 times while waiting outside an apartment.
Collier survived luckily, but on one of his legs had to be amputated ending his dreams in the NFL. The other off-the-field issue, which occurred after the season, was with wide receiver Matt Jones.
Jones had some issues with gun and drug violence and was put into a six-month rehab program. This was the last straw for the former first round pick as the Jaguars released Jones within a month afterwards.
As for the season itself, the Jags just could not put it together. Quarterback David Garrard was nowhere near the previous season’s form where he threw 18 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. It also did not help that he could get no production from a wide receiving core that averages 6’4 in height.
Then, the offensive line was patch-work as three of five starting offensive lineman were out for the season by the end of week two. The defense was pretty steady, but not as dominant as it once was.
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew was the highlight of last year and, now that Fred Taylor is in New England, he will be the feature back in a depleted Jags offense. Jones-Drew is only 5’6", but never doubt his physicality or toughness, just ask Shawn Merriman.
What was a menace last year should have different results for the offensive line. The Jags signed veteran tackle Tra Thomas from Philadelphia, and drafted their tackles of the future in first round pick Eugene Monroe and second round pick Eben Britton.
These plus the return of a healthy center in Brad Meester and guard Vincent Manuwai should open bigger holes for Mighty Might Jones-Drew.
Quarterback David Garrard was horrid last year as he threw only 15 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He will need to throw much better this year as his job depends on it, but with a lack of a receiving core Garrard will face a huge challenge production wise.
The linebacker core is weakened now that Mike Peterson is gone, so the team will be looking to youngsters like Clint Ingram and Tim Shaw to step up.
The secondary under performed last season as safety Reggie Nelson and cornerback Rashean Mathis had disappointing years, but with newly added safety Sean Considine the secondary should regain most of its dominance.
Kicker Josh Scobee only made 19 field goals last season, but with an improved offense he should get more opportunities.
The defensive line a few years ago was one of the most revered in all of football with big boys Marcus Stroud and John Henderson up the middle and defensive end Paul Spicer rushing from the outside. Now, only big John Henderson remains and last season he was virtually nonexistent.
Also, the Jags’ top two picks in 2008 in defensive ends Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves combined for a whole 6 sacks which will not due in a division with Peyton Manning. These two ends will need to prove their worth this upcoming season if the defensive line wants to ever see the backfield of their opponents.
Now for one of the ugliest situations in all of football, the wide receiver core. A few years ago, the Jags built a core after my own heart; receiver Matt Jones 6’6, receiver Reggie Williams 6’4, receiver Earnest Wilford 6’2, tight end Mercedes Lewis 6’6.
Unfortunately, they all underachieved and earned the title of overrated as they were all first round picks. All three receivers are now no longer with the Jags, and Mercedes Lewis is following in their footsteps.
The Jags now must rely on all new starters at receiver featuring Torry Holt and hope Lewis proves to a 6’6" monster. With all new people at receiver and a lack of chemistry with Garrard, the Jags could be in for a long year with the passing game.
Maurice Jones-Drew is a top five back that should be taken if Peterson and Turner are no longer available. He’s 5’6", but every inch is packed with power and his value is higher now that he’s the main and only back the Jags have.
Torry Holt is no longer the All-Pro receiver he used to be, but with limited options for Garrard he should get the majority of passes so should be considered a No. 3 receiver with a big upside.
Sleeper pick is Mercedes Lewis. He’s 6’6" and one of two options that Garrard will be comfortable throwing to. Plus, reports out of Jacksonville say Lewis looks like he is geared to prove he’s a top 10 tight end.