Posted by Josh Katzowitz
Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups .
On Dec. 12, 2010, the Jaguars were 8-5, and they were just beginning the week of practices that led to a showdown with the Colts that basically was for the AFC South title, a crown Jacksonville never has won. Indianapolis showed up that night and won by 10 points, and the Jaguars never recovered, losing their final three games and missing the playoffs for the third-straight season.
It was a huge disappointment, and you have to wonder about the future of this organization with this coaching staff in place. That is the No. 1 question facing this franchise heading into next year.
1. Avoid late-season slumps
Do you put this on Del Rio? Do you put this on Jacksonville being a bad cold-weather team? Do you put this on late-season injuries to Garrard and Jones-Drew in 2010? It’s hard to know. But after starting 7-5 in 2009 and 8-5 in 2010, the team went on to lose four games and three games, respectively, to end those years on the sourest of notes. We don’t know the answers to the above questions, but somebody might want to figure it out.
2. Defensive everywhere but DT
Though their 2010 first-round pick of DT Tyson Alualu was deemed a little bizarre at the time, the rookie from California had a pretty good year. He should continue to be an anchor in the middle of the defensive line. Now, just about every other position in Jacksonville’s defense needs to be upgraded. Perhaps most important are the defensive ends, who can help lessen the time the Jaguars unremarkable secondary must cover opposing WRs. Former first round pick Derrick Harvey has been a disaster, Jeremy Mincey is barely passable as a starter and Aaron Kampman has had a couple major knee injuries.
3.Quality Wide Recievers
Is Mike Thomas truly a No. 1 guy? He had a nice season last year (66 catches, 820 yards, four TDs) as a second-year player, but how will he fare without Mike Sims-Walker – who simply wasn’t the consistent playmaker the Jaguars needed? That’s a major question for Thomas and WR Jason Hill. If they can’t produce, Jacksonville still has young receivers in Tiquan Underwood and Jarrett Dillard. Jacksonville could feel the need to upgrade this position before next year, but if not, it’s still a talented, albeit mostly unproven, corps at this point.
It seems like nobody can really tell if QB David Garrard is worth keeping around, though he actually played pretty good football last season. Meanwhile, there’s no question Jacksonville will hang on tightly to RB Maurice Jones-Drew, who recorded 1,324 yards in 14 games last season and surpassed Tennessee’s Chris Johnson as the AFC South’s best back (his backup, Rashad Jennings, also is quality), and TE Marcedes Lewis proved himself a valuable commodity.
The offense most likely will continue to play conservatively – in part, because of the strength of Jones-Drew and to mask some of Garrard’s inadequacies – but the real test will be the defense. For Jacksonville, it’s the playoffs or bust, and most likely, we won’t know how good this team – or how safe Del Rio – really is until Week 13-17.
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