It has come to my attention lately that Gene has made some moves that have made at least me scratch my head wondering what he's trying to accomplish with his version of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Quarterbacks- David was rewarded a giant contract extension a couple of years after he led the Jaguars to the playoffs and beat Pittsburgh at home in the snow, with what has become know as the "Run", a third and long scramble that sealed the Steelers fate that game. Since that epic season though, David has yet to show that potential making him look more and more like a one year wonder, and every year that passes he gets a little older, and a little slower. This off season, Dirk Koetter was given total command of the offensive play calling, which many thought would open up the offense, and allow David to throw the ball down the field thus opening the running game up. Well a couple things haven't fallen into place to allow David to throw the ball as deep as he'd like. The major one being that his WR Corps doesn't have any deep threats, but more on that later. David wouldn't be such a concern if he had a QB behind him to challenge him and put some heat under his seat, but no we have TRENT EDWARDS! Edwards is a reject from Buffalo, Buffalo of all freaking places, the place where QB's go to die. I think Jacksonville would be better off grabbing a QB from the UFL of all places, including the busts of busts JaMarcus Russel or another Buffalo reject J.P Losman. Yes the QB situation is that bad in Jacksonville and it's not looking up, till at least the 2011 Draft.
Running Backs- We all know what Maurice Jones-Drew is capable of and there lies the problem because he is not living up to his full potential. Maurice put up 1391 yards with 15 TDs rushing and 52 receptions for 374 and a TD last season, his first season as the lead back, but this season Maurice has put up numbers of a third string RB not one of a All Star, this season Maurice has put up 463 yards and a single TD, reception wise he has 12 receptions for 66 yards and a TD. One big number that sticks out that is the longest yard stat, Maurice had runs of 79 and 80 yards last season at this time in the season, his longest run to this date is 23 yards. It's partly due to the fact that the passing game has been less than desirable, but also the offensive line hasn't been wonderful. Most teams in the NFL are relying on 2 or 3 RB's to carry their rushing attack, and the Jaguars are no different, with Rashad Jennings and Deji Karim filling those roles. Jennings played in the first game of the season, but hasn't played since which is odd considering that coaches were very high on him in the preseason, but Karim has done very well for himself rushing 18 times for 73 yards, but his real value is on kickoff returns, where he's helped the Jaguars secure decent field position. If Jennings and/or Karim can prove to be a decent complimentary back to MJD, Maurice's life could become a whole a lot easier, and hopefully he'll return to his old form.
Wide Receivers- Oh how many problems lie in the WR corps and could be solved if we had a WR corps that would scare more than a five year old girl. Mike Sims Walker came into the season "supposedly" the number one receiver, something that the Jaguars have lacked since the days of Jimmy Smith. This season though MSW hasn't even come close to being good enough to even be the Bill's number one receiver, MSW last season came on strong with 63 receptions for 869 yards and 7 TDs, decent numbers for a WR especially one from Jacksonville. This season though, MSW has been very quite with 18 receptions for 201 yards and 2 TDs, and has complained that he's not considered the number one WR anymore, uprooted by Mike Thomas who has 29 receptions for 346 yards, but Thomas has no TDs. The problem with these guys are neither of them are deep threats because MSW is a decent speed, and good size, but he's getting covered by the number one corner, and Thomas is meant for the slot not to be split out wide, but no one else is good enough to start. It's bad news when your having to split your starting TE out wide so that you can have a decent target to throw to, but they don't have any other choice. Kassim Osgood was brought in from San Diego with the hope that he could flourish into a decent WR, but the Jaguars knew that his real value is in special teams, where he had to made the Pro Bowl in San Diego. Tiquan Underwood is the Jaguars only "deep threat", his physical gifts are amazing but some reason he just can't seem to grab the reigns of his game.
Tight Ends- If I had to choose a position that we're strongest at, I would say that tight end is very near the top. Marcedes Lewis was drafted in the 06 draft in the first round, to finally stabilize a position that has seen a TE capable of blocking and catching in the way that Lewis is. Lewis was always known as a great blocker, but his catching was a little suspect when he entered the draft in 2006, but as seen in this season, he's finally come into his own in terms of catching with 20 receptions for 231 yards and a career high so far 5 TDs. Lewis has been truly a safety net for whoever is playing QB for the Jaguars this season. The backup TE position behind Lewis has been very shifty with Ernest Wilford bouncing on and off the team, Wilford being replaced by Zach Potter, and last year's 6th round pick in Zach Miller. One thing that I want to bring up is Miller, we all saw him play season, and he really came on in the last games of the seaosn, but this season, he only has 7 receptions for 51 yards and no TDs. It seems like if the Jaguars wanted to throw the ball more, which Koetter has said he wanted to do, that they would run a double TE set with Lewis and Miller, and let Garrard throw to one of them. I liked what I saw out of Miller, and I know some people last season that he was the poor man's version of Dallas Clark.
Offensive Line- I'll give it to Gene for addressing this position in the 2009 draft by taking Eugene Monroe and Eben Britten with the first and 2nd round picks, but he did nothing to address the interior offensive line in the 2010 draft. Brad Meester is a unsung hero in Jacksonville for manning the center position as long as he has, but it's time to hand the reigns over to someone else. They've been trying that with Uche Nwaneri, but I thought we had several chances to take interior linemen in the 2010 draft that would have bolstered the interior line. With our third round pick, J.D Walton was still on the board the center from Baylor that was considered the second best center in the draft, but instead Gene again with trying to fix the pass rush problem and instead took D'Anthony Smith, the defensive lineman out of Louisiana Tech. Gene did help the interior problem by trading for Justin Smiley, who has stepped into the starting lineup, replacing Vince Manuwai, but besides that, this is still the same offensive line from last year, which worried me, but I thought they would be better this year, if just for the fact that they were healthier, but they haven't been able to open holes for the running game at all. The interior of the offensive line must be addressed in the upcoming draft if the Jaguars are to succeed in the next few years.
Defensive Line- This was a major problem for the Jaguars last season, as they only had a pitiful 14 sacks, something that had to be addressed this off season. Gene did just that by bringing in big free agent Aaron Kampman, who before he tore his ACL last season was a terror on the Green Bay defensive line. Kampman has so far lived up to his billing with the Jaguars racking up with 16 tackles and 3 sacks, and has gotten constant pressure on opposing QB's. His counterpart though Derrick Harvey, again hasn't lived up to his selection of the 8th pick in the 2008 draft by racking up 8 tackles and 1 sack, that's just terrible, now I know it's not Gene's fault we took Harvey, but still how it affects Gene is it meant that he took almost all defensive linemen in this last draft. His pick though of Terrance Knighton though has payed off, with "Pot Roast" racking up 13 tackles and 3 sacks, plus the fact that he can plug the middle up, so that the linebackers can do their job. Tyson Alualu was a hell of a head scratching pick for almost all Jaguar fans, including myself so much that I found myself yelling at the T.V, more on that later. Alualu has a high motor and a will to learn, which shows with him racking up 17 tackles and 2 sacks, The defensive line though needs a defensive end though to compliment Kampman, but we'll have to wait till the next draft.
Linebackers- I would say this is the Jaguars strongest position as it always has been for several years, led by the underrated Daryl Smith and the new addition of Kirk Morrison. Smith has long been a under the radar player partly due to the fact that he plays in Jacksonville, the 2nd smallest market team in the NFL, and also due to the fact that there are so many stars at LB in the NFL. Morrison has been playing in Oakland, but still was capable of making a name for himself racking up over a 100 tackles the last 5 seasons. I was very happy that Morrison came over from Oakland, I felt he gave us a presence that we've been lacking since Mike Peterson left for Atlanta. The combination of Morrison and Smith is a scary combo in the line backing corps for any opposing offense The strong side linebacker I think has been tied down by Justin Durant, but Russel Allen has been pressing for playing time, so either or we'll start the best player, and have a very strong fourth line backer.
Cornerbacks- I first want to start by saying that I could of made the secondary a whole section to itself, but there's enough blame to go around, that I felt like I should break the corners and the safeties up so that I can rant about them equally. First of all, Rashean Mathis was complaining at the beginning of OTA's about how he wanted a new contract before the season started so that he didn't have to worry about it, well I have one thing to say about that, Mathis you have yet to prove your worth a new contract that's even worth a single dollar. His play this season is not what it used to be, and it's showing this season, maybe it's because there isn't a corner on the other side of him that's worth have a shit. Derek Cox looked like a steal last season, the 3rd rounder out of William and Mary that no one had heard of, who led the team last season with 5 interceptions. This season, Cox was benched for David Jones, a late pickup in the off season to help shore up the Jaguars secondary and failed miserably. Cox has 14 tackles and ONE pass deflection, you want to know why he only has one pass deflection, it's because he's too busy letting the opponent's receivers catch passes. Mathis hasn't been much better, racking up 28 tackles and 2 pass deflections, which means that Jacksonville has the 27th worst pass defense, and these two fine gentlemen are a good reason why. Even if we wanted to bench one or both of these corners, it's not like there's anyone on the bench that's going to push these guys for playing time, until at least next season, when we draft a decent corner. On the bench we have Tyron Brackenridge and David Jones, who Jones I talked about earlier and Brackenridge has been moved from safety to corner and back again, so he's never had a chance to settle into a position fully. Don Carey was suppose to be our nickle back this season, but that went out the window when Gene decided to cut Gerald Alexander and move Carey to safety even though we don't have a true nickle back with Gene cutting Scott Starks earlier this season, a move that makes little sense to me due to the fact that we have very little proven talent in the secondary and Starks, even though often injured, filled the nickle role well for us. The thought was Carey and Starks would fight out the nickle role this season, but that was quickly squished with another one of Gene's head scratching moves.
Safeties- Remember the days of Deon Grant and Donovin Darius manning the safety positions in the back field for us, yes that was a long time ago, but a good time when the Jaguars had little worries about who was starting in the backfield at safety every week. ranging from Don Carey to Courtney Greene or even Sean Constantine, all of which most people in the NFL would be like who the hell is that. Gene has made some moves with the safeties that has made anyone and everyone who is a Jaguars fan starting with the NFL draft last season. Everyone who knew anything thought that the Jaguars would take Earl Thomas, the All American safety from Texas who led the NCAA with 8 interceptions but Gene went with the head scratching pick of Tyson Alualu the defense tackle from Cal, who is a good player, but not worth getting selected at number eight. Jaguar fans will remember a situation similar to this last year, when Gene had the chance to select Michael Crabtree, but instead took Eugene Monroe, a pick that ended up being the right choice, but this time I'm not so sure. Thomas has racked up 30 tackles and 4 interceptions, which is the total the whole Jaguars team has this season, anyone see anything wrong with this picture. I have no doubt that Alualu will be a good player, but right now Thomas is showing off what he could have brought to the Jaguars if he had been selected by them instead of the Seahawks. So after blowing the chance to take a play making safety for the secondary, Gene decided to cut who I thought was our best safety in Gerald Alexander, to be replaced by Sean Constantine a player who hasn't stepped into the spotlight well after being asked to start for the Jaguars. Alexander was brought back after a couple weeks but then cut again by G. Smith for reasons unknown except to G. Smith and God. Alexander was our best safety outright and the only speck of decent in the safety position only to be cut so that Constantine could start only to be benched for Courtney Greene. The other starting safety position has been just as hectic with Anthony Smith starting, a young player, but had showed flashes of brilliance, but was traded to the Green Bay Packers a couple weeks ago, which made me scratch my head and ask why, due to the fact that the Jaguars were already weak in the safety position, but with the trade of Smith, that meant that the opening day starters one had been cut and the other traded, not something a team wants to admit.
The Jaguars are in some trouble and help not on the way until free agency and the 2011 draft, things are starting to look bleak. I still have faith in G. Smith partly because he will never be James "Shack" Harris, but he's also not helping himself or the Jaguar's fan base forget how a personal GM can change a team from a playoff caliber team to the bottom of the division.