Where is the Progress in Jacksonville?

The sun has all but set on the 2007 playoff team yet that season still remains as the standard by which team progress is gauged, and rightly so. Overcoming a litany of injuries and a series of first round busts has not been easy, yet over the past three years the team has shown signs of improvement in multiple areas.

So how can one explain the third blow out loss of the 2010 season? One which has also had a last second win over the Colts along with an opening season win over the Broncos. For every indication that the team is moving forward, they manage to empty the glass to disclose that even greater problems need to be addressed.

Back in 2007, the Jaguars were being led by a new starter in David Garrard, the winner of a bitter quarterback controversy. That season saw him put up a stellar quarterback rating while compiling a hall of fame touchdown to interception ratio. It was this promise of future greatness that prompted a new contract and the belief that the Jaguars would soon be Super Bowl contenders.

It was also symbolic of a head coach who began to show his success in Carolina and Baltimore was something which would translate to the next level.

Yet it was not to be and the history of 2008 is well known as injuries and disappointing play led to a season to forget.

After an evaluation of front office and on the field talent there were sweeping changes which included, over the past two years, the loss of defensive tackles in Henderson and Stroud, a gutting of the wide receiver corps and the rebuilding of the offensive line. To date all that's left to add are young faces at the interior offensive line, defensive back and linebacker.

The foundation at quarterback, however, has remained unchanged and relatively unchallenged. No worthy free agent or draft choice has walked EverBank to present himself as the next signal caller. The expectation is that if David was surrounded with better talent he would showcase his abilities and therefore the position was not an immediate need.

A fair request? Absolutely. The pounding he took at the hands of his offensive line, along with arguably the worst receiving corps in NFL history gave many the belief that he was franchise quarterback that was merely surviving until weapons were replenished. However, entering the third year removed from that playoff run there are serious questions as to whether that fabled season was the exception and not the rule.

But it isn't just David's name being tossed around. Del Rio is also being held up to scrutiny.

With the faith that has been put in Gene Smith, the question as to whether the talent is being optimized must be asked. It may be the case that David, the man who made Reggie Williams and Matt Jones look at the very least serviceable, is handcuffed by a coach, and staff, which is not able to develop and game plan.

The expectations for 2010 were low, but the team was at least expected to be competitive. Humiliating loses from the previous year would be forgotten through individual and team maturity along with another promising draft. Yet six games into the season a .500 record doesn't accurately tell the story of where this team is going.

Defensive back was a known liability and in every game has been exploited. Yielding less than 26 points only once is not a recipe for success. The greater problem is an offense, which in three loses has scored a combined total of 19 points. It is here were the questions and concerns are squarely resting. If RB, OT and WR have improved, where is the problem?

Save the Eagles game in which the team gave up seven sacks, the protection has improved. On defense the Jaguars are one of the better teams against the run, as shown by their ability to negate the impact of Chris Johnson, and have almost matched their sack total from last year.

With visible and quantitative progress in some areas, the team must be critically evaluated to find the lingering malaise. When you consider San Diego, a team that throttled Jacksonville 38-13, has loses to Seattle (27-20), Oakland (35-27) and St. Louis (20-17), one has to wonder what is wrong.

I think you can tell the team's progress by how they are losing. Looking at Detroit one can see a team that, even at 1-5, has a +6 point differential and has lost by an average of 6.4 points per game. Four of the losses were by a combined total of 18 points. Jacksonville, on the other hand, is showing a trend of blow out loses.

2008 – Decimated by line injuries, this team was shut out zero times and wasn’t blown out until late in the season when depth began to show. Prior to week 12 the largest margin of loss was 10 points.

Week 11 – 10 point loss at home to Titans
Week 12 – 18 point loss at home to Vikes
Week 13 – 13 point loss at Hou
Week 14 – 13 point loss at Chi
Week 17 – 20 point loss at Bal (Was at that game…rough crowd)

Team loses 8 of last 10

2009 – Team is shut out for the first time since 2004 and looks bad in many games

Week 2 – 14 point loss at home to Arz
Week 5 – Lose 41-0 at Sea
Week 8 – 17 point loss at TN
Week 12 – 17 point loss at SF
Week 16 – 28 point loss at NE

Team loses 5 of last 6.

2010 – Nice start and nice win over Colts but loses are not competitive

Week 2 – 25 point loss at home to Phi
Week 3 – 25 point loss at SD
Week 6 – 27 point loss at home to TN

This obviously doesn't get into the specifics of the game but it discloses a team which, in spite of success, has a hard time being prepared from week to week.

To a greater point. if Gene gets the credit for bringing in talent then who do we fault as it surely isn’t just one person? Nothing, at this point, appears to be changing. We're still looking at a team that can pull the upset, then totally vanish as if forgetting their past accomplishments.

What is needed is for that win over a team like the Colts to not be considered an upset, rather indicative of how the team regularly plays.

I’ve said it before, when Leftwich showed digression in GB during the 3rd preseason game of 2007 it was his final straw. Many of us called for Garrard to start, and upon getting our wish were rewarded with a memorable playoff run.

Is the root cause collective: an inconsistent QB who can’t elevate the play around him and a coach who can’t manage the talent? There seems to be strong indications that it could be both. The problem is that firing Del Rio during the season would be conceding the season and Trent Edwards, though young and with some upside, doesn't know the offense and is still an unproven commodity. Are Wayne and Gene ready to make two drastic moves in an effort to finalize rebuilding?

The good news is that in parts the arrow is pointing up. In Mike Thomas, Mike Sims-Walker and Marcedes Lewis you have progress in the passing game. In Deji Karim and Rashad Jennings you have progress in running back depth. Offensive tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton have shown they can protect the quarterback and open lanes. Aaron Kampman, Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu have displayed the ability to stop the run and get to the quarterback. From Jack's record as coach to David's record as quarterback, however, the body of work says average and that is not a sign of progress.

 

I can't stand it

I can't stand it

Wilco -Can't Stand It

- Brian Fullford

 

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