We are only a few days away from the kickoff of the 2009 season. The offseason now it officially over, we know who made the final roster and who was sent to clean his stuff from the locker room. I think it is the perfect time for a simple Jaguars fan like me, to look around, and try to note what we can looking for in the (at least) next four month.
As all know the past 9 months was brought many big changes for the Jaguars. We are after a devastating period, in a season which almost everyone thought it will be "Jaguars year", instead the team ended up at 5-11 record. As a result James "Shack" Harris ("The cancer" as many nicknamed him lately) was resigned, and the Jaguars had a new General Manager in Gene Smith. And so far he bought much bigger change to the Jaguars then President Obama to America. He cut 1st round receiver busts, he cut/trade nearly all expensive veteran free agenst Harris brought to the team:Jerry Porter, Cleo Lemon, Drayton Florence, (A. K. A. the disaster free agent trifecta from '08,) traded Dennis Northcutt to the Lions for Gerald Alexander, in which he get a 3rd year pro, from a player who is his 30s, and have a much bigger salary, and now just a few days ago Brian Williams, and Tony Pashos. Only Reggie Hayward is left from the expensive free agents, and he is on his contract year, and he is on his 30s too...
Plus, he did something what his predecessor not so well. He has a blockbuster draft. Yeah, sure those 8 (9 if we count practice squad member Tiquan Underwood) rookies not played a snap in a regular season yet, but it seems that half of them will start against the Colts in Lucas Oil Stadium this sunday, in key positions. The two tackles will be rookies (Eugene Monroe, and Eben Britton). Derek Cox showed something which says he might be a second Rashean Mathis. And DT Terrance Knighton is start opposite to Big "not anymore lazy" John Henderson as well. Britton outplayed Pashos. Monroe win the job over multiple Pro Bowler, and Jaguars insurance LT Tra Thomas. Cox is the reason I think the Jaguars let go Brian Williams. And since Knighton is in the lineup, the Jaguars can do 2 things, they don't recently: Stopping the run, and put some pressure on the opponents offensive line and it's QB. And we don't talked about the new WRs Mike Thomas and Jarett Dillard who might help to improve (or create is the better word) the passing game. Nor I mentioned yet the dark horse, the hidden ace of the team TE Zach Miller, and the new backup of Maurice Jones-Drew, Rashad Jennings. This team will be build via draft, no more "more misses then hits"! Just to remind everyone 3 of the last 6 1st rounders(2003-2008) are not with the team (and two of the left players arefacing major questionanswering seasons-Nelson, Harvey) ... from the 2005 draft there is only Scott Starks left...and the most shocking from the 2008 draft there is only 2 players on the roster. That series needed to come to the end! And with Gene in charge that new philosophy just started finally!
And the free agent policy is changed too. No more 10 million for nothing contracts to not so good charaters. Instead Pro Bowl players with well executed contracts (with almost legends Torry Holt & Tra Thomas) , players who can actully win the starting job at the position they are play (Sean Considine), and smart trades (Geraly Alexander and most recently real QB insurance Luke McCown) ssends the message this team is might rebuilding, but it is on the move up!
Of course I have my concerns. Of course we have our fears. Just to name a few: Can Maurice Drew be a 16 game workhorse without injury? Can the offensive line protect David? Which is the real David Garrard? Who played in 2007 or he played in 2008 (I must notice I thought he played Ok last year if we saw what were the circumstances)? Looks like the Jaguars will be a more passing team-do they have the receivers. How the defensive backfield will perform? And the defensive line? Can Derrick Harvey, Reggie Nelson and Quentin Groves step up? Can Jack Del Rio handle the pressure and took his team on the same page? And these are just my main questions!
And as Vice President Biden said of Obama ("He will be tested early"), so will be this young-new team of the Jaguars. They open with 5 games, in which they can easily ended up in a 0-5/1-4 record. Of course that wil be another major blow for the biggest question of the jaguars: the ticket sales. This team must tempt it's fans back to the stadium. It will be tougher this year, then win a game against any opponents. I know how tough the economical situation. I know how some fans like to create excuses to stay out of the games. I know last year was a hit, and this year might be another season with negative record. But every things I just mentioned shows that if the fans of the jaguars shows a bit patience, and support their team, avoiding an "8 blackout out of 8 games" situation, then the Jaguars can silence the critical words from Roger Goodell through Peter King to Tony Kornheiser-well that last will never happen...
Before this segment I must say I not expect a return to the playoffs for the Jaguars. We are not ready yet, to defeat the powerhouses, but I think this team ready to play tough, hard physical games with any team of the league. BUT! If somehow the Jaguars can finish their killer part of the schedule (the first 5 games-yeah Seattle at the Qwest Field will be a tall mountain to climb!) with the positive record, then they can manage the relatively softer schedule, and can be the Miami of 2009! That would be the dream scenario of course at this day it is seems to be unrealistic. Our division is might not the toughest anymore, but still very strong specially for a relatively new team like the Jaguars look alike(with the two new players(guard Kynan Forney and safety Brian Russell) there are 23 new players since last year squad). But please Jaguars fans lets be realistic. This team is probably will ended up around 7-9/8-8 record realistically. If that happens, it is very possible, that Jaguars will remain in the negative territory with their record all season long. If so please don't call for peoples heads (exept it is proven, that he or they are the reason of the losing-but do it after 8 or 9 games not earlier), don't be upset. Hey, I don't like to watch my team to lose either, but I understand that the Jaguars are pushed the reset button on January, and might need time to perform in 100% level. If they lose and make mistakes, but they put their hearts out, I'll be ok with that. I ask you if that will be the case to do so as well!
Now here are the Jaguars stand at this moment. Something new will go to the field on Sunday in Indianapolis. The first game of a new era. We have reasons to be exited. We have reason to be worry. We must take a bit different point of view this year then lately. We must stay critical, BUT we must be patient. All signs are showing up, maybe not right now, but soon. If the Jaguars can win time with patience of the fans, they will turn to the powerhouse very, very soon. All we need is to wait for that. And enjoy the game.
I'm ready for some Jaguars football! Are you?