Jacksonville: Players Who Must Step Up for the Jaguars to Make the Playoffs

David Levin@@davidlevin71Senior Writer IIJuly 7, 2011

Jacksonville: Players Who Must Step Up for the Jaguars to Make the Playoffs

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    The sand in the hourglass is getting thin. And so is Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver’s patience. Two seasons in a row when the team slumped late in the season and missed the playoffs. Two seasons in a row when it was thought head coach, Jack Del Rio was on the hot seat and would not return to Team Teal.

    2011 is a new season and with it comes the hope of a winning season and a return to the post season. Del Rio knows this is a season that will define him and his team. Failure to get past the regular season, as Weaver stated in January, will result in the team having new coach in 2012.

    Nothing like a little pressure to keep you focused on the task at hand.

    But the problems that exist with the Jaguars may not all be related to Del Rio or his coaching staff. Yes, he agreed to allow Mel Tucker to assume play calling on the defensive side of the ball and realizes he must get more out of his quarterback David Garrard this year. But Del Rio dealt with Garrard and starting running back Maurice Jones-Drew being injured during the season and missing the final two games of the year, subsequently costing the team that post season trip.

    As late as week 15, Jacksonville was atop the AFC South and controlled its own destiny.

    While Del Rio needs to step up and prove is better than a .500 coach, there are players on both sides of the ball that need to show they belong on the team and in an NFL uniform.

Kirk Morrison

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    The Jaguars traded a fifth round pick for Morrison and got some return for it, but not the return they had hoped for.

    Since the lockout is continuing, signing Morrison again makes sense, but he must produce like a starter should.

    He was productive all his years in Oakland. Now it's time to show he can be just as good on the East Coast.

Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton

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    Three years ago, the Jaguars took a chance and drafted two tackles in rounds 1 and 2. They are maturing, but now it is time to show they are elite.

    After the rookie campaign for both of them, it appeared Britton was the better tackle. Last season Moore got more playing time since Britton was injured. Call it a wash and now the team needs to focus on both of them pass blocking and protecting David Garrard.

Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu

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    As a tandem last season, they played pretty good.

    Alualu was the team's surprise first round pick. Knighton, a second year player, was one of the better defensive tackles in the league.

    Just think what another season together can do for them.

    They may not be Marcus Stroud and John Henderson, but they play with heart and intensity that is needed in this league. The division is loaded with good running backs like Chris Johnson and Arian Foster.

    They need solid play across the line.

David Garrard

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    He can be great at times.

    And other times, you just want to hide your eyes.

    Garrard is a good and dependable quarterback. He can make great plays with his arm and his feet.

    This season is different. He has competition and this may be his last season in teal. Let's see if he plays like he is fighting for his career.

Mike Thomas and Jason Hill

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    When the Jaguars decided to cut ties with Mike Sims-Walker, it meant these two receivers would be the tandem the team would look to in the end zone.

    Not Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell, but not below average either.

    Thomas led the team in receiving and is a good slot player. Hill is a speedier guy with a bigger frame who showed flashes of greatness.

    David Garrard hopes both will translate into success.

Don Carey

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    He may be thrust into a more important role this season.

    If the team cannot get more help in the secondary, Cherry will be called upon to make it happen.

    The cornerback from Norfolk State must prove he can be an NFL quality defender on a game to game basis.

Rashean Mathis

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    He has played with injuries over the last few seasons, but it looks like the hometown talent has lost a step.

    While Mathis provides leadership, he needs to do more on the field. This could be his last season in his hometown if he cannot perform at a Pro Bowl level like he has in the past.

Jack Del Rio

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    I know he is the head coach, but this is HIS team. Jacksonville's fan base wants a winner. Del Rio is no better than Jeff Fisher right now.

    If he wins, he stays. If he loses, he's gone. And with plenty of coaches available (Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher) or college coaches looking to make a leap, Del Rio could hear footsteps.