"He’s just running over the world." -- Joe Theismann on Jaguars’ rookie running back Rashad Jennings
In the world of football, only one thing is absolute, just win. Relating to Jaguar football, winning is more than just something to promote steady growth throughout the fan-base. It’s necessary for the future of the franchise. Jacksonville is faced with some of the hardest economic times since the inception of the Jacksonville Jaguar franchise, and the franchise is scrambling to regain form. Ticket sales are sluggish at best, and the team is coming off one of the most disappointing seasons in terms of predicted success by the general public as a whole.
Through all of the economic turmoil, organizational restructuring, and team rebuilding, there are a few things I know. After finally managing to watch game four of the Jaguars preseason against the Washington Redskins, here are three things I know for sure:
1. Terrance Knighton is the best draft pick of 2009 not named Eugene Monroe. For those of you who were in doubt when this draft pick was announced, rest assured. Knighton is the future of the Jaguars’ defensive line and will no doubt draw some attention this season as a playmaker. Reminding me of a raw version of Albert Haynesworth, Knighton has been solid in the preseason. Throughout each preseason game, it seems Knighton has put more pieces of the puzzle together regarding his overall game. It amazes me that a young rookie, who at one point everyone thought General Manager Gene Smith reached for in the draft, can develop this quickly into such a high caliber player.
Knighton consistently penetrated the offensive line. Not only did I see him pushing offensive linemen back on their heels but Knighton was making plays all over the field. Though John Henderson has stepped his game up this offseason, Knighton has clearly outplayed Henderson in every category. Reading the offensive adjustments, Knighton displayed some nice lateral movement to each side of the field and made some key plays in the flats. Everything about Knighton’s development throughout the offseason and preseason assures me that Knighton is to be the Jacksonville Jaguars future Albert Haynesworth.
2. Sean Considine is solid. If you like to see spit coming from the mouth on a big hit, Considine will provide it for you. This consummate professional takes his job very seriously and thrives in situations where contact is necessary. He is the epitome of what the Jaguars have been looking for in a strong safety, and made the decision to let CB Brian Williams go that much easier. Considine has had lapses at times, but it is difficult for me to determine whether it has been a problem with schematic adjustments or poor reads. Regardless, Considine’s strong play across the board has made it easy to overlook the negative. Considine, in my opinion, seems like the type of guy who must prove his worth and value to his fellow teammates and coaches before he steps into a leadership role. More than willing to be a leader of the defense, Considine will first ensure that his game is completely on point. He is the type of guy who walks more than he talks and when he finally speaks, people listen. This guy is going to be an all around stud for the defense this season.
3. Now I know what all of the talk was about Mike Sims-Walker in his only preseason action. Literally, on a reception near the sideline, he adjusted with lightning-fast reflexes to snatch a ball on his outside shoulder and my mouth dropped. He had good yards after the catch, sure hands (except for his one drop in the endzone before halftime), and a more than noticeable chip on his shoulder. Sims-Walker clearly had something to prove, and he didn’t try to hide it.
As it becomes more evident the Jaguars are moving away from a power running game and closer to a more wide-open offense, it also becomes clear that Sims-Walker (upon staying healthy) will find himself on the field in regular three-wide sets. Assuming quarterback David Garrard is provided good protection, look for the Jaguars to have a dynamic passing attack in the second half of the year if not sooner. Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter knows it is crucial to have his playmakers all on the field at the same time. With receiver Torry Holt already an established star, receivers Troy Williamson and Sims-Walker could well be on their way to reaching that status if they can prove to be consistent with preseason performance and potential.
A. It is clear why running-back Rashad Jennings made the team over Chauncey Washington. As Jennings saw plenty of carries in the final preseason game, nothing really stood out to me as overall eye-popping. And then it happened. Late in the third quarter, after several penalties and the offense facing a 2nd and 30 situation, Rashad Jennings catches a little screen pass from quarterback Todd Bouman in the flats and a complete destruction of the Redskin defense ensued. Though it is believed that Jennings runs too upright, he definitely lowered his shoulder on this play. Not only did Jennings break about four tackles as he pummeled over everyone in sight, but he literally left two Redskins defensive players on the ground injured after the play. After watching the replay about eight times, my jaw dropped as Jennings ran over each player like they were cardboard cutouts. Their knees clearly locked up, and I thought they were seriously injured. After the play, the camera actually captured one of the injured players sitting on the bench with tissue in his bloody nose. The sheer raw potential and upside of Jennings is too great not to develop.
B. From what I counted, I only noticed one drop from Troy Williamson. Several passes were thrown his way that weren't catchable. His only drop came from a short, two yard pass from Bouman. At this point, I am fairly confident in Williamson’s hands, and I look forward to the passing attack he is going to be involved in this season. If commentator Joe Theismann is to be trusted, Troy Williamson led all NFL receivers through the 3rd preseason game in receiving yards. I didn’t do the research to find out if he held that status through the final preseason game, but it’s not important. When is the last time that a Jaguar receiver eclipsed the top ten in the NFL in receiving yards?
Here at Last
The preseason is finally over; the regular season is here. The Jaguars open the season this Sunday against the hated rival Indianapolis Colts. Can Derek Cox make it through the game without giving up numerous big plays? Star quarterback Peyton Manning will no doubt target him early and often in the passing game. Will Cox survive? Can Reggie Nelson be a vocal leader of the defense? Can the defense not only get pressure on Manning but finally make it home and get some sacks on the quarterback? Of course, these are only a few questions to be answered. Win or lose, the 2009 season may be one of the most exciting in recent history. Though the media attention is focused on Jacksonville’s ticket problem, the fans are focused on the team’s growth as it rebuilds. With a seemingly solid draft in 2009, the Jaguars are well on their way.