First of all, I can't imagine being a Jaguar fan and not coming to Big Cat Country. I have been so pleased with the site and all of you. We keep each other informed in a very intelligent fashion and never let this site degrade into the cesspool most other web-based blogs become. Thank you to you all.
I don't want to post a negative article about the Jaguars; they worked very hard this year and don't deserve that. I will have more to say about that in a moment. There are, however, some things I don't understand.
The first thing I don't understand is the offensive line. As recent as two years ago this was a good offensive line. Three years ago it was a tremendous line. In 2005 the team had 1,959 yards rushing and allowed 32 sacks. In 2006 they had 2,541 yards rushing and allowed 30 sacks. In 2007; 2,391 yards rushing and 31 sacks. In 2008; 1774 yards rushing and 42 sacks. In 2009 we have 1,900 yards rushing and 41 sacks. Andy Heck, line coach, has been here the entire time. Dirk Koetter took over for Carl Smith in 2007.
So what is causing the decline in the offensive line? Did Vince Manuwai and Brad Meester get that old that fast? Is the Dirk Koetter offensive hard to block for? From what I see in the pictures, our line looks more confused in assignments than just getting beat. I don't think they are as bad individually as they are as a group. The running is not dependable and the third and fourth downs with two yards to go are not a given. I don't know if that is a symptom of past injuries or missed blocks. I see both, but somehow, that unit looks in more disarray than I ever would have imagined. It is not terrible, but it is not playoff caliber either. I rarely see a holding penalty but I see David get hit. I don't want the penalty, but I'd like to see a bit more desire to protect David. Our injury riddled line of last year will allow less sacks than this year. Why? This is not a typical Andy Heck coached unit, and not one I expected.
The next thing I don't understand is the defensive secondary. Mel Tucker has been a good coach for pass defense and especially the defensive secondary. I don't know how Reggie Nelson can be singled out in game 15 as a problem when they have watched him all through training camp, preseason and 14 regular season games. Has Mel Tucker been hoping he would get better and coaching him to get better or did this just happen? Why is Reggie Nelson suddenly being discovered as a weakness if he wasn't all year long? If he has been a weakness, why was he on the field starting? I have trouble believing he can't play this game, but I might be wrong.
Why does a team pass defense allow quarterbacks to set records for completions and yet never take a pass interference penalty? That has to be a defined policy of the coaching staff and what they preach; allow the completion before drawing a penalty. Again, this is not the Mel Tucker unit I expected. Once again, I see more missed assignments than lack of athletic ability. Confusion and caution is what I see most in the secondary, more than lack of ability.
I think what I am seeing is a team not as prepared mentally to play week in and week out as I hoped. There is something wrong in the Jaguar preparation for the season and individual games that seems to lead to erratic play. Sometimes they get it, other times they are completely out of sync. The same goes with the play calling, sometimes it is brilliant, sometimes it is questionable. I wonder if the different "experiments" and coaching changes stymie players ability to come in and easily learn the system. I am not sure there is a system sometimes. That was harsh, but with the 3-4 experiment and Maurice saying we don't run enough, we saw enough player discontent with the "system" to believe something is bothering the team. Something makes the Jaguars unstable.
Now I promised this would not be a totally negative post, so back to the Jaguars as a team. Tony Dungy and Bill Belichick both taught their teams how to fight to the end before they learned to win. Neither coach stepped in and won a Super Bowl year one or even made the playoffs, but they both had teams that fought hard. In 2009, I appreciated the Jaguar effort most of all. If there was quit in this team, they would have lost to St. Louis, Kansas City, Houston and Buffalo. They would have repeated 2008 and maybe worse. The fight to the end was the real strength of the team this year. I am hopeful that the spirit of fight, along with constant player upgrades leads to a winning culture. This spirit of fighting is what Jack Del Rio brings to the team. Keep chopping wood. I enjoyed that aspect of this team the most.
I do have to ask the coaching staff to look at themselves, however, to ensure they are doing everything they can to help these guys develop and win. I just don't believe these collapses are all player problems. Something is still not right in preparation and readiness. Fighting hard is not enough, winning takes effort and brains. I believe Jack knows how to win. I think we need him and his coaches to firm up and develop the system and then translate how to play for success to the players better. We are not a stable team, but then again neither is Houston or Tennessee. The top teams are stable. I want us to get there.
- Terry O'Brien