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2008 NFL Season Preview: #6 Jacksonville Jaguars

August 25, 2008

Division: AFC South
Last Years Record: 11-5
Head Coach: Jack Del Rio
Assistant Head Coach/ Tight Ends Coach: Mike Tice
Offensive Coordinator: Dirk Koetter
Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator: Gregg Williams

Key Additions:
S Pierson Prioleau
WR Troy Williamson
WR Jerry Porter
CB Drayton Florence

Key Losses:
DT Marcus Stroud
CB Terry Cousin
WR Ernest Wilford
S Sammy Knight
DE Bobby McCray

Offensive Breakdown:
The Jacksonville Jaguars have been one of the toughest teams in the NFL over the past 3 seasons, with a 31-11 record against most of the league. I said most because they are terrible against the two teams that have owned the AFC for the better part of a decade, the Colts and the Patriots. Jacksonville is 1-8 against the two teams over the last three seasons and if they want to be remembered, their success against both will have to change.

Last season David Garrard finally got what he deserved, the full-time starting quarterback job for the Jags. He had been in the shadows of Byron "Are you gonna eat that?" Leftwich for four seasons. Leftwich was routinely benched for his shaky play and in last seasons training camp lost the job to Garrard, not to mention his spot on the team. David Garrard, a survivor of Chrone's disease and an alum of East Carolina University, would bring Jacksonville some fire power away from the ground game. Unlike Leftwich he seems to always make the right throws(18 td's to just 3 interceptions) and brings consistency (102.2 passer rating). He also showed that he can be a threat outside of the pocket, running for 185 yards. With Garrard leading the offense, this team is in safe hands.

It is no secret that the Jaguars strength is in its ground game, last season they ranked 2nd in the NFL in rushing yardage. The dangerous combination of Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew has helped the Jaguars dominate the ball and control the clock. Fred Taylor is coming off on a season where he gained 1,202 yards and put himself at 17th on the all-time rushing list. If he has a comparable season this year he could pass Jim Brown, who's eighth on the list. His age being 32 is a concern, but he has yet to show any signs of aging and some of that can be attributed to sharing the load with MJD. Jones-Drew is an all-purpose back who can burn you in the ground game and by receiving. He broke the franchise record with 2,250 all-purpose yards his rookie year and added 2,014 last season. He is an amazing player, especially for someone where football isn't their number one priority.

Greg Jones is the fullback, he is primarily a blocker and short-yardage runner.

The Jaguars signed former Raider Jerry Porter to be their number one starter, a position that hasn't been filled since Jimmy Smiths' retirement. Porter is currently dealing is recovering from knee surgery that will keep him out of the first week. They also brought in Troy Williamson via a trade with the Minnesota Vikings. Williamson never lived up to being a first-round pick in Minnesota but playing with Garrard should help. He brings speed but needs to develop more consistency catching the ball. Dennis Northcut, Reggie Williams, Matt Jones, Mike Walker, and John Broussard all return to battle for starting spots. Matt Jones is winning the battle at this point, despite being arrested this offseason for cocaine charges. He has vaulted himself back into the starting lineup and eliminated the chance of being cut, for now. Tight end Marcedes Lewis improved in his second year, catching 37 passes, earning his spot as the starter. There is a slew of tight ends battling for roster spots including Isaac Smolko, Richard Angullo, George Wrighster III, rookie Chris Brown, rookie Adam Bishop, and Greg Estandia. Estandia and Wrighster are both returning from the IR.

If MJD and Fred are going to continue their success, the offensive line will need to their part and play like they did last season.Maurice Williams, Dennis Norman or Uche Nwaneri will battle for the vacancy left by the release of Chris Naeole. Williams, who signed a new four-year, $16 million contract, started 10 games in place of Naeole last season. Run-blocking specialist and guard Vince Manuwai is back for another year, while veteran center Brad Meester will step in when he recovers from a torn biceps suffered early in training camp. Tackles Tony Pashos and Khalif Barnes will be responsible for protecting the backside of Garrard.

Defensive Breakdown:
The Jaguars were 11th against the run in 2007, but it will be tough to match that number this season as veteran tackle Marcus Stroud was traded to the Buffalo Bills. Big John Henderson (38 tackles, 2 sacks) has the ability of being a beast in the middle.

Henderson will be paired with Rob Meier (27 tackles, 4 sacks), as the starting tackles. Paul Spicer (34 tackles, 7 1/2 sacks) led the team in QB takedowns last year, posted three forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. Rookie Derrick Harvey is still holding out for a better contract, Harvey will have to adapt to the speed and strength of NFL players quickly if he is going to help in his rookie season. Fellow rookie end Quentin Groves, who was plucked a round later out of Auburn, will also join the rotation at the end spot. Groves is smaller than Harvey, but may have more speed around the end. Veteran DE Reggie Hayward may be the odd man out if either of the rookies emerge. Tony McDaniel , Derek Landri, Jimmy Kennedy and Jonathan Lewis will provide depth on the interior.

Probably the Jaguars strongest unit on the defense, the Jaguars have three seasoned linebackers ready to pummel in 2008. The biggest question concerns the health of middle linebacker Mike Peterson. Peterson, who is entering the final year of his contract, missed six games last season because of a broken hand and eleven games in 2006. Daryl Smith will line up on the strong side for the Jags, while Clint Ingram takes his usual spot on the weak side. Fellow linebacker Justin Durant filled in nicely for the injured Peterson last season at the middle spot, but is back in familiar territory on the outside. Defensive end Brent Hawkins is expected to get a few looks at the outside linebacker spot.

In the secondary Rashean Mathis is a stud and is a staple at the left corner spot. Brian Williams is penciled in at the right corner spot, but may get moved to strong safety following the addition of defensive back Drayton Florence. Gerald Sensabaugh played in just two games last year due to injury. Free safety Reggie Nelson had an encouraging rookie season and is ready for more in 2008. Scott Starks will be vying for the nickel job, while Pierson Prioleau adds depth.

Season Outlook:
The Jaguars have all the pieces that are necessary for a deep playoff run. They have a strong front seven on defense, a smart QB, and a good running game; now all they have to do is beat the Colts and the rest of the tough AFC South. Even though my mind is telling me no (too many cooks in the kitchen) I think they should win 11 plus games this year, which will most likely be good enough for second in the division.

Week 1: Sep 07 @ Ttitans 1:00 PM CBS
Week 2: Sep 14 Bills 1:00 PM CBS
Week 3: Sep 21 @ Indy 4:15 PM CBS
Week 4: Sep 28 Houston 1:00 PM CBS
Week 5: Oct 05 Steelers 8:15 PM NBC
Week 6: Oct 12 @ Denver 4:05 PM CBS
Week 7: Bye
Week 8: Oct 26 Cleveland 4:05 PM CBS
Week 9: Nov 02 @ Bengals 1:00 PM CBS
Week 10: Nov 09 @ Detroit 1:00 PM CBS
Week 11: Nov 16 Titans 1:00 PM CBS
Week 12: Nov 23 Vikings 1:00 PM FOX
Week 13: Dec 01 @ Houston 8:30 PM ESPN
Week 14: Dec 07 @ Chicago 1:00 PM CBS
Week 15: Dec 14 GB 1:00 PM FOX
Week 16: Dec 18 Indy 8:15 PM NFL NETWORK
Week 17: Dec 28 @ Baltimore 1:00 PM CBS


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