Position Grades Through Week 3
The Jacksonville Jaguars have begun the 2011 season, one in which a playoff appearance is desperately needed, with mixed grades.
While there have been bright spots, the overall performance of the AFC South's runner-up from 2010 is a mixed bag.
With the team wildly inconsistent, questions remain regarding the future of the franchise with their current roster, as well as the future of the coaching staff.
At 1-2, with the hardest stretch of the schedule upcoming, we evaluate the individual performances thus far and find out what the Jaguars must do to realize the promise they anticipated in 2011.
Offensive Line: C-
The Jaguars offensive line seems to be desperately searching for answers following three weeks of terribly inconsistent play.
The lone players among the Jaguars offensive line who deserve compliments are Uche Nwaneri and Brad Meester, the longtime veterans. The two, though not spectacular or dominant, are a reliable tandem at center and right guard that give the Jaguars line its only source of true leadership.
Few compliments remain for the other 60 percent of Jacksonville's front line.
A team defined by their ability to run the football, Jacksonville is 19th in the league in yards per carry (3.7 yards), and there has been little continuity amongst the group. Furthermore, pass protection has been terrible, and the team seems uncoordinated when forced to pick up any type of standard blitz packages.
The Jaguars bookend tackles, both former first-round draft selections, seem to have the look of busts. Eben Britton played left guard against the Panthers, while Eugene Monroe has routinely been dominated throughout the first three games.
Left guard has been a revolving door, involving Jason Spitz, Eben Britton and the rookie Will Rackley.
Much of the pressure resulting in two safeties on quarterback sacks in the first three games have been the fault of pressure felt from the left side of the offensive line, with Monroe seemingly incapable of moving his feet in pass protection or simply getting shoved over with power moves.
While the Jaguars have been effective running the football, yards per carry drop off dramatically when Maurice Jones-Drew exits the game, leading one to believe that the entire rushing attack lies squarely on Jones-Drew's shoulders.
Tight Ends: D-
All-Pro Marcedes Lewis has missed most of the first three games with a calf strain, and backup Zach Miller is woefully underperforming based upon his predictions as an athletic tight end with a great upside.
Miller has struggled in run blocking, and the tandem have only combined for seven receptions through three games.
Lewis has to remain healthy and provide a viable safety valve for Blaine Gabbert for the Jaguars to have any chance to be competitive.
Wide Receivers: F
The Jaguars receivers get an F only because Z isn't a real grade.
They are simply the worst group of receivers in the NFL.
Jason Hill has more drops than he has receptions, and Cecil Shorts, the much talked about rookie in Jacksonville, has yet to catch a pass.
The group is too slow to get separation from defenders and too small to fight for jump balls or get position on intermediate routes.
Mike Thomas, the "No.1" receiver, shows how loosely the term can be used. Aside from a fluky 36-yard touchdown against Carolina, Thomas has 14 receptions for 103 yards.
I'll add that Thomas is what the Jaguars consider their greatest deep threat.
Expect this rating to go up.
I give the Jaguars a D+ only because Luke McCown was so terrible in week two that I can't fathom saying the Jaguars quarterback play has been average.
Blaine Gabbert played well in his first game, considering he has been in camp less than two months, is only 21 years old and was playing in a deluge of biblical proportions.
He will get better this season, despite the limited cast around him.
Gabbert and Meester fumbled mishandled several exchanges in the rain, but I place much of this blame on the coaching staff.
The general rule of thumb is that, when in bad weather and the quarterback-center exchange is proving difficult, the shotgun should be used more frequently.
The Jaguars coaching staff made Gabbert look worse than he really was.
Running Backs: B
It is so impressive how tough Maurice Jones-Drew really is.
He is the only weapon on an offense that has 29 points in three games, but he's averaging more than 100 yards per game and is on pace for a career yardage season.
He doesn't complain. He doesn't gloat after a big run. On any other team, he's recognized as the best back in the NFL.
His grade is absolutely an A.
However, Deji Karim has been completely ineffective in the relief of Jones-Drew, and the Jaguars desperately need him to step up and take pressure off of MJD.
Otherwise, Jones-Drew won't finish the season because of his extensive workload and overworked knees.
Defensive Line: B
Tyson Alualu is an absolute beast and leads a defense that is greatly improved from 2010.
The Jaguars are the fourth-best defense in terms of total yardage and are the only reason Jacksonville hasn't been blown out in all three games in 2011.
I can't give the defensive line an A because it has simply no pass rush but credit has to be given to a group that has limited Chris Johnson, Shonn Greene, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in three consecutive games.
The Jaguars linebackers have proven tough against the run but still are a liability in pass coverage.
In consecutive weeks, they have been gashed by Dustin Keller of the Jets and the Panthers' combination of Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen.
Olsen was wide open on a late touchdown reception in Week 3 that proved to be decisive.
Cam Newton missed on several throws to open receivers in Week 3, but the Jaguars secondary hasn't quite been the embarrassment I assumed they would be.
Rashean Mathis has done well in run support, and, overall, the secondary seems to be tackling much better.
However, the Jaguars get their first true test for their defensive backend on Sunday when Drew Brees comes to town.
With the Saints clicking the way they are offensively, this rating could drop quickly.
Special Teams: F
Josh Scobee has been his usual, automatic self.
That's where the compliments stop.
The Jaguars are among the bottom of the league in average yards per return allowed and average gained. They simply have no speed returning kicks.
Matt Turk, who may be older than Ray Guy, has been terrible and has many wondering how short his leash might be.
Jack Del Rio was openly critical of Turk following Week 3's loss, in which Turk punted ineffectively and dropped an inexplicable fumble under no duress.
Without vast improvement, he may be on his way out the door.
Mel Tucker has done a wonderful job with the defense, but Dirk Koetter's offense has only two offensive touchdowns in 12 quarters.
Coach Jack Del Rio is, again, firmly on the hot seat, and many are wondering if a tough early-season schedule will find Del Rio unemployed by the bye week.
Del Rio and Koetter were far too cautious with Blaine Gabbert in Week 3, sitting on a five-point lead for two quarters before Carolina found the end zone to win the game.
Furthermore, on a potential game-winning drive, the Jaguars offense looked disorganized and unprepared. Although Del Rio took the blame for his team's confusion, taking the blame doesn't lessen the fact that he has been there for nine years and is still making "rookie coach" mistakes.