BREAKING: Jacksonville Jaguars team to beat in AFC South

Contrary to other reports , the Jacksonville Jaguars have used the 2008 offseason to announce to the division that they are the team to beat in the AFC South.  While the Indianapolis Colts deserve the respect due to a six-time division winner, there is no reason to assume that the reigning champs have done enough to hold their position at the top of the South.

Yes, this article intended as a bit of Counter Battery fire toward my good friend and Indianapolis Colts writer over at Stampede Blue.  Big Blue Shoe, as he calls himself, delights in mocking our Jaguars whenever possible, in what can only be a defense mechanism to the pain and suffering that Jacksonville is going to give their team in 2008. 

And we can forgive him, it's merely one step in the Kubler-Ross "Stages of Grief ": In this case, our fellow Colts fans are deeply in denial of the changes and progress made by the Jaguars during this offseason.  Denial manifests itself in peculiar ways in a fanbase,  the Colts will find their evidence in attacking statistics from last season that make the Jaguars look like an Arena League team and hope that the trend continues.

Specifically:

Now before I get flamed, hear me out. The Jaguars are a very good team at shutting down an opponents running game. However, against the pass, the Jaguars flat out suck. They can't pressure the QB and their secondary is highly suspect. The Jaguars defense in 2007 allowed opposing playoff QBs to complete 78% of their passes for 599 yards, 5 TDs and 2 INTs.

In the modern NFL, that is a sucky defense.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is simply no way the Jacksonville Jaguars field anywhere close to that poor of a pass defense in 2008.  The Jaguars secondary in 2007 featured a rookie tossed into the starting role with Reggie Nelson,  a 33 year old Sammy Knight playing a fill-in role with Gerald Sensabaugh on Injured Reserve, an Injured Rashean Mathis, and a healthy but out-of-position Brian Williams rounding out the starters. 

Secondary Concerns:

There was a reason that Sammy Knight often led the team in tackles week in and week out, that's because he could not cover a tight end to save his life and would get targeted every single week.  That the Jaguars held together any sort of defense with his inability to cover is still remarkable.  Sammy Knight is now a New York Giant, and we won't have to worry about him again.

In his place the Jaguars will feature Brian Williams, a former Cornerback that is a natural at Safety.  In fact, he's a bigger version of the Colts safety Bob Sanders.  Williams is going to move to Strong Safety and be used all over the field by Gregg Williams, both in run support and in pass coverage.  Where tight ends ran right by Sammy and were wide open, they'll have a guy that shut down Randy Moss running side by side.

Let's not also forget that our Free Safety, Reggie Nelson, will have another year under his belt.  Gregg Williams and Donnie Henderson will demand that Reggie steps up the intellectual side of his game, especially considering that he'll be playing a lot more center field with the Jaguars likely emphasis on pressuring the quarterback.

Finally, add in a healthy Gerald Sensabaugh, who struggled in September because he was playing with a torn labrum, and went on injured reserve when he tore the other one, and Florence/Mathis on the outside, and you've got a recipe for a huge improvement in our secondary.

The Quarterback must go down, and he must go down hard:

Before we discuss our changes at defensive end, lets take a moment consider the messages sent from the front office about our defensive line.  The Jaguars, I will admit, have made mistakes with their draft picks.  Where they are batting .1000 are in resigning and extending their players. You simply do not hear about the Jaguars offering their players big extensions and then having the player fail to perform.  The Jaguars sent Marcus Stroud to Buffalo and extended the contracts of Rob Meier and Tony McDaniel, both of which will be critical in the new "Teal Curtain".  It's to be expected that the Colts disregard Tony McDaniel as a threat, they've never really seen him.  Let's just say that Peyton Manning will have a 6-7, 310lb beast in the middle, just like Stroud used to be.

The outside, of course, is going to be manned on occasion by the rookies, Derrek Harvey and Quentin Groves.  It's completely fair to assume that because they are first year players that their impact will be minimal.  The problem with that reasoning is that both of these players will be used as pass rushers, an area where physical gifts are more important than experience.  When Quentin Groves takes the field on 3rd and 7, it will not be terribly hard for him to figure out what he's supposed to do.  Harvey has it a little tougher, as you'll see him playing the run and the pass more frequently.

In either case, it's not as though they'll be all alone on the ends.  Reggie Hayward will be two years removed from his injury, Paul Spicer will eventually be extended, and the group will have a good shot at being this years New York Giants in regards to attacking the quarterback.

Absolute Nonsense:

I hate to nitpick, but this is the most deranged thing I've ever read:

There is not one single area where Jacksonville is "better" than Indy. Maybe their special teams coverage units. Maybe. Everything else is a clear advantage for the Colts. Indy's QB, WRs, o-line, d-line, TEs, CBs, safeties, LBers, kicker, and punter are all better than Jacksonville's. Even the running back position favors Indy.

I'll grant Quarterback, I'll even concede the offensive line and Tight Ends.  But to say that the Colts have better Linebackers, Defensive Line, and Secondary than the Jaguars is an ignorant statement.  The Jaguars use their linebackers a little differently than the Colts do in the "Dungy 2", and really can't be compared directly.  The combination of Durrant, Ingram, Peterson, and Smith give the Jaguars three guys who can play every combination of linebacker spots, the speed to play sideline to sideline, and a nasty hard hitting attitude.  I'd take our bench linebacker over any of the Colts starters.  Remember, the biggest knock on the Jaguars pass rushers is that they're young.  None of our guys are coming off of a Lis Franc, like Mr. Freeney.

And the Running Backs?  Are you serious?  I don't care who the third and fourth running backs are on the Colts roster, Fred and Maurice are enough to do the trick.  Call me crazy, but were something terrible to happen, Greg Jones would surprise a lot of people with his ability to run the ball. 

It is absolute absurdity to assume that a team is completely and utterly the master of another.  The Jacksonville Jaguars of 2008 will be unlike any the Colts have ever seen.  While it's easy to write the team off because they've not proved anything on the field yet, the Jaguars have made all the right moves to overtake the Colts in the AFC South.

Enjoy the Homerism for now Indy, in a few months we'll give you a reality check...

 

-Chris

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