I was re-watching the game against Green Bay last week and made a few observations I thought deserved mention. The Jaguars clearly are playing to win, and that is a huge statement considering the letdown this season has become. Forget that trash about tanking to get a good draft pick. Just ask Herm Edwards why you play the game. I bet he'll tell you. We get 48 hours (TV time) of football guaranteed to us each year, and I demand the best effort possible from my team every minute of that time. It's why we watch, but more importantly, it is why we love sports.
If the team can turn it around and go 7-9, it gives us a much brighter outlook on the future. There were quite a few things that didn't seem to go our way all season, and it has cost us. The missed FGs, the injuries, the needless turnovers, the shooting of a player, the locker-room infighting, the incorporation of a new defensive scheme, the loss of coaches to other teams... All of it hurt more than we thought. However, if we can turn it around and beat two playoff contenders back-to-back, then I think it shows we aren't far off our mark of being a playoff caliber team.
Last Sunday's game against a much-maligned, but very talented Packers team showed us that there are quite a few players who realize they are on the hot seat. Dennis Northcutt clearly realizes he's in danger of being cut in the offseason and is desperately trying to secure his roster spot for next year. Our WR corps has been the bane of this teams existence for far too long. Reggie Williams will have to turn out record breaking games in the next two contests, or the team will undoubtedly opt out of his final contract year. He knows this and we'll likely see his best effort. 2 games with 8-10 catches and 2 TD might be enough to save his job, but even that is unlikely.
George Wrighster is another player who I don't see having a future as a Jaguar. He's scheduled to earn $950,000 next season, and Marcedes Lewis and Greg Estandia have closed the significant gap in blocking ability that once existed between Wrighster and the rest of the TE's. George Wrighster is a Kyle Brady clone. He has sure hands and rarely drops a pass, can block like a guard, but is by far the slowest of our 4 TE's. George is another player who must turn out major performances in the last two games if he has any hope of keeping his job at a salary 3 times as high as Estandia's.
Khalif Barnes is a guy I wouldn't mind resigning as a back-up tackle, but the team is obviously going to let him test free-agency. Expect a complete overhaul on the offensive line. The only two linemen who are secure as starters are Uche Nwari and Tony Pashos, everyone else is auditioning for a back-up role or possibilities with other franchises. Ideally, the Jags would want to resign Meester, but it may not be in the cards for the aging center. The question is, can the Front Office find an adequate replacement for him in the offseason at a cheaper price. He's good, but not as good as he once was, and that is exactly why you replace guys.
Defensive Line is another area of concern. While watching the Green Bay game again, I noticed quite a few bright spots, but some concerning trends as well.
Derrick Harvey, played very well in my opinion. He was often double teamed on run plays to his side, and he held his ground (your job when being double teamed), and on a few occasions forced the opposing blockers back. I repeat, he can play the run well. For the first time, I saw consistent pass rush moves employed by Harvey to get to the QB. He had a spin move, a dive move, he executed his stunts flawlessly (something he had struggled with all season), and most importantly, he used his hands very well to keep the opposing linemen from locking on with their blocks. He has improved and I think he'll be much better next season. It was nice to see something other than a bull rush or an outside move.
Rob Meier is inconsistent and hasn't played up to his contract extension. If John Henderson is playing well, then Rob plays well because the opponents focus on Big John. I haven't liked what I've seen from Meier lately. Tony Mc Daniel is now on IR so he's completely out of the mix. Quentin Groves is fast, explosive, and too small to play DE against the run. He must bulk up in the offseason or teams will continue to exploit his lack of size and inability to hold the point.
Reggie Hayward is a veteran who knows change is coming and can see the writing on the wall. He's playing for a roster spot next year and has really come on in the past month. If he continues to make plays he'll continue to be a Jag. Paul Spicer is in my Dog-House. He supposedly went to offseason training to improve his pass rushing abilities, and he hasn't done squat. He's old and really poses no threat in the pass game anymore. He is strong against the run, but not as strong as he used to be (notice a trend forming here?). In my opinion he's another player who is likely to be released unless he shows he's worth keeping.
Don't forget to show up to our Big Cat Country Tailgate Party!!!
Read about it in the posts below.
Finally, an answer the countless emails we've been receiving from all of you:
YES, Chris, Terry, and Myself will be signing autographs, and we'll stay until everything is signed! ;)