Jacksonville Jaguars: How the Jags' can turn things around in 2011
The Jacksonville Jaguars' 2010 season had many ups, downs and wild finishes.
They would lose out the rest of the schedule and finish the season at 8-8.
Yet, throughout the late season defeats and the division title being snatched from their reach, the 2010 season for the Jags' can been seen as a slight step in the right direction.
It is quite possible that many people reading the above statement are already tempted to read no further, yet consider the following:
1. David Garrard overcame early season struggles and ended the season with his best QB rating since 2007 (90.8), also setting a career high in passing touchdowns.
DG showed that he was willing to work through his struggles, especially after the signing of former Bills' QB Trent Edwards (who was released after two games into the season), which led many Jags fans clamoring for a change in the signal-caller position in favor of the younger, fresh face in Edwards.
Garrard was instrumental in leading the Jags to victory over the Colts in Week 4, following two 25 point losses which put his future in question.
2. The Jaguars WR corps blew all expectations away by far.
Marcedes Lewis had the best year of his career, earning a Pro Bowl nod and certainly giving GM Gene Smith many reasons to give him a big contract. Lewis created a rapport with David Garrard early in the season and often, and would finish the season with 10 touchdowns, more than any other Jags' tight end in the franchises' history and leading the team in TD grabs for the season.
Mike Thomas emerged as a viable option at WR, and was even Garrard's top threat at wide out as Mike Sims-Walker missed 3 games due to injury.
3. The Jags' took a huge risk by signing DE Aaron Kampman and it paid off, even though he tore his ACL (again) during the Week 8 contest with Dallas and would miss the rest of the season.
So, how is his signing a boost? Simple: He provided a spark to a horrid defensive line during his time on the field and provided to an also terrible leadership core in the Jaguars locker room.
Kampman, even though he was on IR and not forced to do anything other than sit at home, rehab and collect checks, traveled with the team during their away games and made his presence known in the locker room. Throughout injury, he still remained the most valuable leader the Jags had on the defensive side of the football.
4. They received (finally) a sponsor for the naming rights to the formally known "Jacksonville Municipal Stadium," and the home of the Jags was renamed "EverBank Field."
In 2009, seven of their home games were blacked out due to ticket sales, yet 2010, not a single game was blacked out and there seemed to be a rebirth in the attitude of the fan base towards the franchise.
It can be seen by the above that the Jaguars, facing several obstacles, made stride in the right direction towards improving their franchise and efforts towards winning the AFC South title.
With that being said, here are some things the Jaguars must do to finally reach that point:
1. Shore up the secondary through both free agency and the college draft—this is a must.
The Jags sent out a secondary which most likely could not cover a junior varsity high school squad. None of the Jags secondary other than Rashean Mathis has any prior starting experience in the NFL and their inexperience of covering NFL caliber receivers showed multiple times during the season, including Reggie Wayne's shredding of the secondary in Week 4, as he nearly eclipsed 200 yards receiving.
Time to dump Brackenridge, Jones, Carey, Greene, Mathis and completely overhaul. Bring in Nnamdi Asomugha or Champ Bailey and some college talent who can learn a thing or two from these future hall-of-famers.
2. What is surely without a doubt, an echo of the Jags' fan base: DRAFT A QB.
It was just a few paragraphs ago that the praises of Garrard were sung, however, not once were any of the accomplishments of any of his multiple backups made any positive mention.
Todd Bouman is not getting any younger, Trent Edwards looked completely lost all season, including during a Week 17 start (which he had 12 weeks to prepare for) and Luke McCown is questionable to return in 2011 following a knee injury.
Don't get me wrong, Garrard does indeed deserve his shot again in 2011 regardless of if the Jags' draft a QB or not. However, it is time to prepare for the future and given the Jags' draft spot and the age of their current starter, if any of the Jags' brass is reading, absorb this: THIS IS THE YEAR.
3. KEEP PUTTING FANS IN THE SEATS. The Jags were able to do this by building the hype for the 2010 season through free-agency signings and a solid draft.
Team owner Wayne Weaver must be willing to do this once again, by making a reach into the Free agency pool and signing a top talent that will create the feeling that the Jags are inching closer and closer to that coveted title.
What will the Jaguars make of another opportunity to capitalize on what appears to be a weak division once again in 2011?
Even though the offseason has not officially begun, Jags fans are certainly going to be wondering during what is going to be a very long and interesting off season.
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