Jacksonville Jaguars: Jags' have plenty of needs entering the off-season
At the start of Week 14 of the 2010 season, the Jaguars were one game up on the Colts for first place in the division, and entered Lucas Oil stadium for a showdown with Indy. A win would have brought the first ever AFC South division title home to Jacksonville.
Unfortunately, the story didn't end the way the Jags' fans would have liked. It was this loss that set up the free fall that Jack Del Rio's Jaguars endured the final three weeks of the season, resulting in the widespread belief that Del Rio would, after eight years with the team, finally be fired.
Instead, Wayne Weaver showed his continuous faith in Del Rio, and opted to retain him as coach for the 2011 season.
Whether or not the impending labor stoppage was the deciding factor in Weaver's decision (Del Rio is owed $10 million over the next two years), all signs point to Del Rio leading the Jags for another season.
Weaver did however, make two statements on his coach's future: he will no longer run the defense, and if the Jags miss the playoffs next year, Del Rio is out.
Del Rio's future is the biggest story going into the Jaguars' off-season, but there are certainly other hot topics facing the teams' GM Gene Smith and the rest of the Jags brass, and it will be a very interesting couple of months leading up to Draft.
So what must the Jaguars address prior to kickoff weekend in 2011?
Are there any explosive threats on the roster at wide receiver?
Mike Thomas had a break-out season in 2010, and established himself as the No. 1 target at wide-out for David Garrard. However, he is a bit undersized, and cannot make a presence in traffic.
Mike Sims-Walker had a nightmare year following his own breakout year in 2009, and failed to stay healthy, missing three games and being limited in action down the stretch.
Jason Hill was a late-season signing who contributed and was able to steal the starting job from Sims-Walker by seasons' end.
There are indeed talented receivers on this roster, but are there enough?
The answer to that question is no.
Sims-Walker is the biggest threat they have at WR, and he is slowly starting to wear out his welcome in JAX due to his fragility.
Perhaps the Jags' should be calling a certain soon to be Bengals' free-agent vet who spent this past year showing that he can make the plays in traffic that Mike Thomas can't.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE JAGUARS' DEFENSE?
Not too big of a no-brainer for anyone who watched this team struggle down the stretch.
The Jags' secondary was downright awful, and stud corner Rashean Mathis looked to have lost a step or two.
The team dealt safety Reggie Nelson to the Bengals for CB David Jones prior to the trade deadline, a move that they undoubtedly regret following Jones being thrashed by Colts' WR Reggie Wayne (15 rec, 196 yds) when Jones started over a struggling Derek Cox in Week four.
Cox, who the Jags spent a 2nd round pick on in the 2009 draft, was benched after the first week of the season, and on top of Cox's struggles, Jacksonville seemed to have a different safety combination each week.
Don Carey made progress at safety by seasons' end, whereas 2nd year Jag Sean Considine seemed to digress, and will likely be on his way out this off-season.
Many laughed at the Jags' for passing on Tebow in the first round and selecting Tyson Alualu, but selecting him may have been just what the doctor ordered to rebuild the defensive line that has been torn by inconsistencies and injuries since the departure of the twin uglies Marcus Stroud and John Henderson.
Aaron Kampman was the Jags' biggest off-season signing in 2010, and he was lost for the year after injuring his knee in practice at mid-season. Kampman is expected to return in 2011 fully recovered.
IS IT TIME TO MAKE A MOVE AT QUARTERBACK?
The 2010 season saw David Garrard start hot in Week one, nearly lose his job just a few weeks after, only to bounce back to post career highs several weeks following his struggles, and ultimately finish the year on the injured reserve.
Sounds like quite the roller coaster ride for the Jags' vet.
Garrard showed throughout it all, and certainly following a blowout loss to the Titans on Monday Night Football in Jacksonville which had many calling for Del Rio to pull the plug on Garrards' time with the Jags, that he is going to keep working to turn the Jaguars into a winner as long as the job is his.
Garrard has shown his leadership and ability to win with his back against the wall despite the pressure of the media and the game.
But is Garrards' leadership and work ethic enough to turn the Jaguars into a winner in 2011?
Hard to tell what lies ahead next season, but Garrard's time in Jacksonville is certainly running out, and it's a safe bet that if the Jags are sitting at home during the postseason again in 2011, Garrard and Del Rio will both he hitting the road.
It is time for the Jaguars to look to the future at the most important position on the field, and Gene Smith is already doing his homework on the many talented prospects who are NFL bound.
It is certainly an exciting offseason ahead for all Jaguar fans.
The 2011 season is going to be the last opportunity that Del Rio has to take advantage of a struggling division and a team that is ready to make a run if the right moves are made.
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