There was a lot to love about the Jaguars tonight. Like any good relationship, no one is perfect, but overall the positives far outweighed the negatives. Let's see, where to start...
The Defense! The backup linebackers played and made a case to be first string guys. Brian Iwuh played the game like a young Mike Petterson. He was everywhere hitting everyone without any showboating. It was a joy to watch. He was the only one of 22 players on the field to correctly diagnose a fumble. No one seriously chased him the 75 yards he ran it back. Thank God no one did, he ran out of gas once and took a break during the run. It was a smart heads up play. His 7 tackles far outpaced everyone else.
The other guy that jumped out at me was Derrick Harvey. On the Eagles first possession Harvery brought pressure on the first down. On the second down, in came Vick with a suttle pass and Harvery smelled it out. On third down he flushed Donovan McNabb out of the pocket. In the second series, he lined up wide and got Vick again. Later in that series he was chashing down McNabb and got double teamed. He was drawing double teaming later when he was in.
The Jaguars introduced the 5 man front and I loved it. It confused the Eagles and opened the door for blitzing. Raheen Mathis hit McNabb, Brackenrich got him twice. There was no time to throw in the first half.
Coverage remains an issue and I think Brian Williams is becoming a liability. The Eagles had 200 yards passing in the first half and most of the completions were easy completions. So we have a quarterback under pressure, linebackers shutting down the run, and 200 yards of passing in the first half? Yikes, it must drive Jack nuts.
Scott Starks was in and looked very good. Gerald Alexander had a beautiful interception. I think things are getting better in the backfield but they still are vulnerable.
Here is what I loved the most. Nate Hughes took a viscous hit to the head from Asante Samuel. He layed there a long time almost dead. When the defense came back on the field, it was clear they were going to avenge that hit. I swear I saw rightous anger and a strong hitting back from this team. That will make me fall in love with this team every single time.
Overall, the defense against the Eagle first team gets a B+. Vick did look very good with great speed on his few throws.
The Offense? The offense was working on certain things tonight and it was harder to evaluate them. I liked what I am beginning to see and the mad genius of Dirk Koetter is becoming clear. They worked running to the left almost exclusively in the first half. A team that can run to the left has a very versatile offensive line and usually produces an effective running game. Last year they were limited to running to the right and the running game was too easily shut down. If they can open up an effective attack on both sides, it is like a boxer with knockout power in both hands. This is clearly a work in progress and a capability they worked hard in the Tampa game, but results are beginning to come. Watch for it next week.
The play calling was excellent. Dirk Koetter correctly picked up on blitzes and launched MJD off on screens. This threat will keep the defense off David as you only need to be burned once or twice blitzing before a team quits doing it. One thing I was very glad to see was Eben Britton streaking across the field and throwing the key block for Maurice. Vince Manuwai looked confused as Eben rush into break open the play. I was lovin what I saw from Eben tonight.
David worked timing patterns with Torry Holt. David and Torry are forming their relationship. Asante Samuel is not stupid and picked up the practice intention and sat on a Torry route for an interception. I didn't care about the interception because I knew what they were doing. When that timing gets right, the old hook and go would have burned Asante. This will be a productive relationship, give it time.
Nate Hughes courage convinced me he deserves a spot on this team. He snatched the goal line pass and took a monster hit. Torry Holt cheered the touchdown, realized the fumble, scored the points and led the prayers for Nate to get up. I was so glad to see him get up. That catch won my heart. Torry's reaction made me glad he was here. Torry Holt is a wonderful presence and would make a great receivers coach when he retires.
David was just so so tonight and his offensive line didn't keep people off of him again. Eugene Monroe struggled again, but the talent is there and he did get out well in run blocking. Mario Williams will eat him up right now. I thought Meester and Mo had a bad game as heat came right up the middle. A QB has trouble with straight up the middle pressure as it draws his attention away from developing patterns. The offensive line still confuses me and I am wondering who the best five really are. I think the 2007 O-Line was a primary run blocking line with some pass blocking. In preseason this year they have been trying to be a pass blocking line with occasional run blocking. I don't know if that matters but it is something to discuss. Why won't David scramble?
They aren't working much on running so the run game doesn't show much just yet. I know this, there is a big drop off from Maurice Jones Drew to the number two back whoever he is. Wish we had someone like, oh I don't know, maybe Fred Taylor?
Jarett Dillard had a nice TD catch with a beautiful use of hands snatch from mid-air going up high to get it. It was clear his record setting college performance will translate to the NFL in time. (Clear to me, or is it just hope?) Afterwards I saw Torry Holt congratulating him. In practice, I took a lot of pictures of Jarett approaching Torry for help and Torry working with him. Those two have formed a nice partnership. I loved everything I saw from Torry, and loved the Dillard catch.
Overall I give the offense B- tonight. But it was a big improvement. There were almost no flags thrown against them in the first half. Eugene drew the first one for holding and I think Tra drew one for false start, but a very disciplined team showed up.
Special Teams... Coverage was very good thanks to Brackenridge and Chauncy Washington. Witherspoon is a major risk. I watched him commit the cardinal sin of punt return by running up to make the catch on the run. This is a high risk move because a fumble on special teams can be a game killer. I would coach him out of that real fast or not let him in if he does it again. However, if he catches the ball clean, he is simply the best return man we have. Clean him up and then reap the benefits. So competition woke Podlesh up? About time, I was annoyed with his lazy attitude and was more than glad to see someone challenge him. He has shown his true ability lately.
Special teams gets an A tonight.
In Summary. I am looking forward to seeing them against Washington. I am falling in love with a hard hitting QB chasing defense. I am loving the beginning of a two sided running game and the possibility of a potent passing attack. I am beginning to forget last year. I am beginning to smile about opening at Indy. We just might bring a surprise for them and I love that thought most of all. Are you reading this Kinnecolt? We are coming your kick your donkey asses.
- Terry O'Brien