After a 1-3 preseason record, the Jacksonville Jaguars brass, especially head coach Jack Del Rio, believes this team will be good and challenge for the AFC South title.
Maybe they are counting on Peyton Manning being out for some time to level part of the playing field.
The Jaguars still have major question marks in all facets of their team, including special teams and the coaching staff. They made their final cuts and trimmed their roster to the 53-man limit on Sunday, drawing questions as to who will fill slots on special teams, the second running back after Maurice Jones-Drew and in the offensive line where two third-year tackles need to show more promise.
These issues, along with a tough schedule for finishing second in the division last year, do not bode well for a team that appears to be in transition. I have been critical all preseason of this team, hoping to find something that would tell me this is a franchise that can challenge for a playoff position.
Right now, I can't do that and want to be proved wrong (yes, as a fan and as a writer). The Jaguars have many new pieces to a puzzle that has yet to fit together and while millions of dollars were spent to shore up a defense that still looks uneven, the offense is in just as many straits, losing Rashad Jennings to injury and dealing with an offensive line that is shaky at best right now.
How will the new players signed in free agency adapt to the style and contrast of other schemes played in before and how will the veterans on this team rally to provide leadership to many new faces?
The AFC South becomes a lot more difficult to navigate if Manning is not starting for the Colts. The Texans are better and the Tennessee Titans hope to be improved with a new quarterback and a happy Chris Johnson.
The Jaguars finished second last season, but if improvements are not made this season to issues that have existed (that will be discussed in this slideshow), then the team could finish at the bottom of the crowded division that could place two teams in the playoffs this season.