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Gridiron Preview: Jacksonville Jaguars
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1 Aug 2010 EST

- by Rakibul Islam, Sports Staff Writer

2009 Season: 7-9, 4th in AFC South

Playoffs: N/A

Major Additions: WR Kassim Osgood, DE Aaron Kampman, LB Kirk Morrison, OG Justin Smiley

Major Subtractions: WR Reggie Williams, WR Torry Holt, DE Quentin Groves, DT John Henderson, LB Clint Ingram, OT Tra Thomas, DE Reggie Hayward

2010 Draft (important picks): DT Tyson Alualu, DT D’Anthony Smith

2009 Recap: The Jaguars surprised many by staying in playoff contention late into the 2009 season, but had a poor finish.  The offense once again was led by RB Maurice Jones-Drew, who in his first season as the starter gained 1391 rushing yards and scored 16 TDs.  He made the Pro Bowl along with QB David Garrard, although Garrard was a replacement player after throwing for 3597 yards and only 15 TDs, while adding 323 yards and 3 TDs on the ground.  WR Mike Sims-Walker had a breakout year, leading the team with 63 catches, 869 yards and 7 TDs.  The offensive line went with two rookie OTs in Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, while the middle of the line was in flux with C Brad Meester continuing to age.  They struggled in pass protection as a result, giving up 42 sacks.  The defense was below average all season, especially against the pass.  They ranked 27th thanks to a horrific pass rush that had only 13 sacks all season (some individuals had more than that!).  This gave QBs plenty of time in the pocket, meaning skilled CBs Rashean Mathis and rookie Derek Cox were unable to defend well.  It didn’t help that the safeties slipped in their play, especially undisciplined Reggie Nelson.  They were not much better against the run either; with their former dynamic DT tandem split up, John Henderson could not do enough by himself.  Their undersized LBs struggled with stopping the run as well.  Despite all this, they someone managed to enter December as the wild-card leader at 7-5.  However, they lost the last 4 games of the season to drop below .500 and out of the playoffs.

2010 Offense Outlook:  The offense will need to improve in 2010.  At this point in his career, Garrard is what he is, a decent QB who probably will never become an elite passer.  Therefore, he enters the season on his shortest leash ever, with backup Luke McCown ready to grab his spot at the first opportunity.  Garrard won’t get much help either; with Holt gone, Sims-Walker is the only good WR, and will probably see double-teams all season.  They will need a competent starter to emerge from the group of Osgood, Mike Thomas, Troy Williamson, and others.  If TE Marcedes Lewis can continue to develop as a threat, Garrard may yet remain the starter.  Jones-Drew will continue to carry a heavy burden in the offense, but they hope backups Rashad Jennings and Greg Jones can work to take some of the load off of him.  Along the offensive line, only Monroe and Britton have secure jobs in 2010.  Smiley will battle Vince Manuwai, Paul McQuistan, Jordan Black and others for the two guard spots.  Meester isn’t long for this group, so either John Estes or Cecil Newton will have to take over at center.  An offensive line in flux does not bode well for this offense, so don’t be surprised if it struggles all year.

2010 Defense Outlook:  The defense will see its own makeover this season.  Most of the changes will occur up front, with Henderson off to Oakland.  Alualu was a surprise top-10 pick, and will have to immediately start at DT, likely alongside Terrance Knighton, while Smith will come along more slowly.  Kampman struggled when playing OLB in Green Bay, but he returns to DE here.  Before tearing his ACL in 2008 Kampman was a feared pass-rusher, but at 30 the Jaguars will settle for just decent.  DE Derrick Harvey has been a bust since going 8th overall in 2008, and he must take a huge step forward if he wants to remain on this team.  At LB, Morrison comes over from Oakland, where he racked up a lot of tackles for a porous run defense.  He is a bit smaller than most people would like for a MLB, but he is a smart defender and should emerge as the leader very quickly.  Last year’s MLB, Justin Durant, will likely slide outside and combine with OLB Daryl Smith to flank Morrison.  Mathis missed 6 games due to injury last year, and at 30 years old may start to slow down.  They may have found his replacement in Cox, who performed beyond expectations as a rookie.  Still, with Mathis slipping there are no top-shelf CBs in this group, so the pass rush will have to improve considerably if this pass defense doesn’t want to be shredded again.  Nelson has tailed off following his good rookie year, and was close to being replaced in the lineup last year as his attitude flared up.  If he gets to start this season, it will be on a very short leash since they can’t afford many more slipups from him.

2010 Schedule Outlook:  The Jaguars take on the AFC South, AFC West, and NFC East, as well as the 4th place teams in the other AFC divisions.  Their schedule is not that bad.  After a relatively easy start against Denver, they face three tough opponents at San Diego, vs. Philadelphia and vs. Indianapolis.  Their week 9 bye is bracketed by a trip to Dallas and a visit from Houston.  Their other tough stretch is at the end, where they get road games at Indianapolis and Houston in the last 3 weeks.  Other than that, most of their games are winnable with solid play.  The home/road split is fairly balanced, even in regards to their bye.  They don’t have much of a home-field advantage though, as fans have stayed away from the stadium and they rarely sell out games.  If they can overcome that, they may enter the final month in contention once again.

Regular Season Prediction: 6-10

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