NFL Insider - Jacksonville Jaguars on the Hot Seat
No team in the NFL was a bigger letdown for the betting community than the Jacksonville Jaguars. Releasing Byron Leftwich, handing the keys to David Garrard and boasting the services of Fred “Ageless” Taylor and Maurice “MoJo” Jones-Drew, the Jaguars looked like a veritable lock for the playoffs. Then came a 5-11 SU season, a 4-12 ATS gut punch to their betting faithful, the 21st ranked NFL defense and a horde of Jacksonville fans scratching their heads.
How could things go so wrong?
Well for one, David Garrard fell way back down to Earth after supplanting Byron Leftwich as the starting quarterback. In 2007, Garrard was the talk of football town as he threw 2,509 yards, 18 touchdowns, just three picks and posted a 102.2 quarterback rating. One year later came a more realistic 3,620 yard campaign that was cemented by 15 touchdowns…and 13 interceptions. Garrard went from “Mr. Mistake Free” to “Mr. Mistake” in the quick turnaround of one off-season.
Jacksonville’s feared rushing attack also fell to Earth, becoming mid-level at best during the 2008 campaign. MoJo scored 12 touchdowns, but only managed 824 rushing yards. Fred Taylor was a shell of himself with just a single score. Jacksonville averaged just 110.9 yards per game on the ground, ranking them 21st overall in the NFL.
What does a piss poor passing attack and a stalled rushing attack tell you? After all, it’s hard to say that David Garrard was merely playing for a contract since he’s been such a class act. And MoJo and Taylor have all the talent in the world between the two of them. So what’s the issue? The offensive line sucked.
The defense had its own issues, but we almost expect the Jaguars defense to take a step in the right direction as their young secondary gets older and fiercer. The question for me is the offensive line, and MoJo’s ability to carry the load now that Fred Taylor isn’t their to act as a safety net anymore. Behind Jones-Drew stand Chauncey Washington and Alvin Pearman. If you’ve never heard of those two, don’t worry – there’s a very good reason.
The offensive line will see the return of Vince Manuwai and Maurice Williams, two of their starting linemen that were injured in Week 1 during 2008. That means that the interior trench protection will be shored up and allow MoJo to open up cans of whoop-ass on linebackers who underestimate the power of the little man.
With a renewed offensive line and a powerful running back, the key will be for David Garrard to finally find some rhythm with this receiving corp. Torry Holt and his deranged fingers have arrived in town to serve as the mentor that Troy Williamson and Dennis Northcutt have needed.
But the thing about optismism in football is that it always relies on a lot of “ifs”. If the offensive line remains healthy, MoJo and Garrard will be better. If Torry Holt can get anything out of this bag of idiots playing receiver, the passing game will improve. And if the defense continues to build around guys like Derrick Harvey and Reggie Nelson, then the defense will be stronger. But that’s a lot of “if’s”.
Perhaps the bigger question is “if” you’re willing to ride the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2009 knowing that a lot of these “if’s” won’t pan out.
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