The NEXT 5 Issues Facing The Jacksonville Jaguars In Training Camp
Sure, Jacksonville Jaguars fans of all spots have seen the stories, heard the hype, answered the questions. Doubters are asking Jags fans if Maurice Jones-Drew can shoulder the load. Who is David Garrard going to throw to, or more importantly, should Garrard be the one doing the throwing?
My Jaguar-covering-colleague Brendan Cullen pointed out some of the more obvious issues facing the Jacksonville Jaguars in his "Top Five Jacksonville Jaguars Preseason Storylines" article. My assignment was a little bit different. I was tasked with the storylines NOT getting the publicity as the Jacksonville Jaguars ready themselves for training camp to open on Monday, August 3.
5. Get Those Rookies Signed!
The Jaguars have been working from the bottom up. While only four teams have locked down their first round picks, the Jaguars haven't inked a single one of their first four picks, spanning the first three rounds! Normally, that's not something to sweat about too much, but when you play in a division as tight as the AFC South, every little advantage helps. Especially if you are relying on your first two picks to anchor a newly-rejiggered offensive line in a division that faces Dwight Freeney and Mario Williams twice. There are blocking schemes to be learned and the sooner they're learned, the more reliable they will become.
4. David Garrard, Then Who!??!
Sure, the spotlight is tightly focused on David Garrard needing to rediscover the poise, performance, and playmaking that helped him achieve a big payday before last season. Well the offensive line has been rebuilt (but not signed – see above), and the backfield has been defined (sort of – see below), but if a Tom Brady-like injury befalls number 9, what happens to the Jaguars season?
Would you believe that their additional QBs on roster as of this writing (on July 28) include Todd Bouman, Todd Boeckman, and Paul Smith? Bouman last posted stats heaving the rock for the pre-Drew Brees New Orleans Saints in 2005, with a glorious 2-7 TD-INT ratio. Paul Smith was a practice squad player for the Jaguars last year and Todd Boeckman was the quarterback for the Ohio State Buckeyes who was benched in favor of Terrelle Pryor. Of this lot, I like Boeckman's chances the best, but only if he has some very, very solid options to throw to.
3. MJD and. . .?
Maurice Jones-Drew is the guy. We've heard it, we've seen it, we get it. Fred Taylor's up in New England, chasing down his best chance to achieve a championship ring. Greg Jones is still here, but he's been an on-again, off-again fullback. Will Jones become the go-to guy when MJD needs a breather? I'm not presuming MJD is going to pull himself out of the game, nor is he going to dog it on any plays, but he is accustomed to having fresh legs. Who's going to spell MJD for those fresh legs? Rashad Jennings seems like the best option. We'll have to wait and see when the coaching staff decides to make that commitment and select the runner-up running back.
2. Will Derrick Harvey Have a Chance to Shine?
Drafted in the eighth overall spot in 2008, Harvey was a camp holdout and quickly found himself having m=to make up for lost time. Arguments could be made that the coaches held him back in his rookie year or that Harvey held himself back by not being on the roster sooner rather than later (or we could just blame his agent). Regardless of who was at fault for a virtually non-existent rookie season, will Harvey get a chance to see a bump in production and make a mark as a leader of the Jaguars defense for the future?
Mario Williams was selected as a Pro Bowl alternate in his second season with the Houston Texans after recording 14 sacks. Of course, Williams had one sack more in his rookie season than the 3.5 posted by Harvey last year. That's kind of sad in and of itself, considering the Jaguars played the Lions last year and recorded 7 total sacks in that one game.
1. Who is Going to Lead?
Arguably, the heart of the Jacksonville Jaguars is gone, on both sides of the ball. One year after the removal of Marcus Stroud from their locker room, the Jacksonville Jaguars will enter training camp without another leader. Mike Peterson signed with the Atlanta Falcons.
On the offensive side of the ball, Fred Taylor – Mr. Jacksonville Jaguar – was released after eleven years with the team. Most fantasy football fans point to Fred as a critical condition consternation, but Fred Taylor was the Jaguars. He had been with the team the longest of anyone on the roster. Now that honor falls to longsnapper Joe Zelenka.
The Jacksonville Jaguars need some leadership this year and they need it fast. Tra Thomas brings immediate savvy and respectability to the offensive line. Torry Holt does the same for one of the NFL's most disappointing receiving corps over the past few years. As Jack Del Rio enters the seventh, and perhaps most critical, year of his tenure as the second head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars he needs to remind his players that they need to function as a team. Del Rio needs to be a leader of men and hope that some follow his example if the Jaguars are to stand a chance of possibly breaking an 8-8 record and challenging the other teams in the AFC South for a playoff spot.
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