Following an 11-5 2007 season, the Jacksonville Jaguars were a chic pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl last season. Unfortunately, for Jags fans, things didn’t quite go as expected. Dealing with a slew of injuries to their offensive line, the Jags were never able to find a groove. In fact, at no point during 2008 did the team possess a record better than .500, though with the squad going just 5-11 on the year, that’s not all that surprising.
With the offensive line hurting, quarterback David Garrard lacked the time needed to really make things happen for Jacksonville through the air. While he did throw for a solid 3,620 yards, Garrard managed to complete just 15 TD passes while throwing 13 INTs and getting sacked 42 times.
It didn’t help Garrard’s case that Jacksonville failed to add any star power to the wide receiver position prior to the season. Thus, the team’s top two wide outs in 2008 were Matt Jones, who racked up 761 yards and two TDs, and Dennis Northcut, who caught 44 passes for 545 yards and two scores. Perhaps finally realizing the lack of talent they have at the wide receiver position, the team added former pro bowler, Torry Holt, to the mix this offseason.
The running game, too, suffered as a result of the injuries to the o-line. Following a 2007 season in which they finished second in the league in rushing offense with 149.4 rushing yards per game, the Jags finished just 18th in the league in 2008 with 110.9 rushing yards per game.
Both Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor saw their yard per carry averages dip as MJD went from averaging 4.6 in 2007 to 4.2 in 2008, while Taylor dropped from 5.4 to 3.9. With such a steep decline in Taylor’s production, the team decided to let the vet go this offseason, meaning 2009 will be the MJD show in Jacksonville, which should help the back out-perform the 1,389 total yards and the 14 total TDs he had in 2008, making him a top-five option in 2009 fantasy drafts.
Torry Holt (WR)—What do you do when your team hasn’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since Jimmy Smith went for 1,023 yards in 2005? Well, if you’re the Jags, you bring in a future Hall of Famer in the shape of Torry Holt.
At the age of 32, Holt is entering the down slope of his career, but while he missed out on the 1,000-yard plateau in 2008 for the first time since his rookie year in 1999, Holt still has something to offer, especially to a Jags team that hasn’t had a top notch wide out in some time now.
Tra Thomas (OT)—Following the slew of injuries that befell the o-line in 2008, the Jags made sure to make it a priority this offseason. In doing so, they signed free agent tackle, Tra Thomas, who has protected Donovan McNabb’s blindside since 1999. The Jags hope that Thomas, despite turning 35 this season, can help keep Garrard avoid the frequent trips to his back that plagued him in 2008.
Fred Taylor (RB)—It will be strange to see Taylor in a uniform that’s not the teal of the Jacksonville Jaguars as the back had been with the team since his rookie year in 1998. In 11 years with Jacksonville, Taylor tallied seven 1,000-yard seasons, most recently in 2007; however, despite his solid play, with MJD being the team’s future at running back, it was time for Taylor and Jacksonville to part ways.
ROOKIE TO WATCH
Eugene Monroe (OT)—In addition to adding Tra Thomas to the o-line, the Jaguars also drafted offensive tackle, Eugene Monroe, out of Virginia with the eighth overall pick of this year’s draft. Considered by many to be the best pass protector in this year’s rookie class, Monroe should be a rock to the Jags’ front line for years to come.
BRUNO BOYS SPOTLIGHT
Maurice Jones-Drew (RB)—Since MJD’s debut season in 2006 in which he went for 941 rushing yards, 436 receiving yards, and 16 total TDs, fantasy owners have been clamoring for the back to be the Jags’ featured back. With the team saying bon voyage to Fred Taylor this offseason, fantasy owners will finally get their wish in 2009.
While there is some room to be concerned with MJD carrying a full workload due to his diminutive size, the back has proven quite durable to this point in his career. With a revamped line in front of him, opening up holes, get ready to see those thunder thighs do their magic in 2009.
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