Jaguars: Silver Linings and Sinking Ships

Young Jaguars fans showing their gratitude.

So how has everyone enjoyed watching our team highlights for the week? There is something to be said for what a last second victory over a perennial Super Bowl contender will do for your television viewing. I personally watched ESPN and the NFL network more than I ever have.

But my highlight was coming home to hear my teenage son tell me of the signs he and others made and put in Scobee's front yard. It is that kind of excitement which builds the fan base and gets the city excited. I know the 24 hour rule is in play and we are supposed to forget about it and move on to Buffalo, but we haven't had many moments like this in recent history so I am milking the cow dry.

Now onto the Yin and Yang of the team. Even in victory there is always room for improvement and areas where maybe the arrow is still or is now pointing down. Many items have already been touched upon by bloggers and the media, from Jack Del Rio's job status to Derrick Harvey's job security. I am going to try and stay away from those with the hope of bringing something hiding in the shadows into the light.

Silver Linings

  • The kick return team hopefully is about to get a giant boost with the return of Deji Karim. What this means is that Jacksonville, tied for  15th in the NFL with 23.3 yards per kick return, gets to see a potential game breaker get to touch the ball. Taking nothing away from Tiquan Underwood who has a nice 24.8 ypr, which finds him at 11th in the NFL, but Karim appears to have just a bit more burst. This also means we might see Underwood take over the punt return duty from Mike Thomas. My preference is to not have the number two receiver playing special teams. It also means one more player between forcing Jack to put Jones-Drew back there.
  • Indianapolis came into last week's game with seven sacks, and left with seven sacks. Even better, Garrard was only hit once. Compare that to last year where in the first game at Indy they had 1 sack and 6 hits then in Jacksonville 2 sacks and 6 hits. Whether it is more a sign of the Colts declining defense than then offenses progress does not matter. It is good to see Garrard getting protection, period.
  • I am not buying this business like approach to the season. Sure it is a component of being professional, but you know full well there is a part of these players which takes a great deal of pride from the recognition. Paul Kuharsky giving Underwood the High Energy Player of the Week and Scobee getting AFC Special Teams Player of the Week do a lot for the morale of the fans as well as the players. Now obviously when Darryl Smith received Defensive Player of the Week and Tyson Alualu was up for Defensive Rookie of the Week in week 1 there wasn't a carry over into San Diego so it might be more style than substance. Still, you have to think at some point these accolades will indicate the sign of a team who is beginning to see more play makers than busts making up the roster, which should translate to more victories.
  • Maybe not something you think about on a daily basis, but how great is it to have confidence in your long snapper, holder and kicker? While we're all caught up in the high of Scobee's leg, consider the pressure on the guy who had to deliver the ball and then the guy who had to get the ball down? You can send those cards and flowers to Jeremy Cain and Adam Podlesh. Said Cain, "We execute the same operation every time. Do it quick, do it accurate. 1.3 seconds from snap to kick." Well, it has kept Josh perfect thus far.
  • Jacksonville beat the Colts and didn't win the time of possession battle (Indy had the ball for 28 seconds more). The prevailing thought has always been to beat the Colts you have to keep the ball out of Peyton Manning's hands. Consider this: 2008 41:35 to 18:25, 2006 31:37 to 28:23 and 2004 34:34 to 25:26, all in favor of Jacksonville. The 2006 game was the 44-17 ground attack so the scores came fast and often. Sure Manning threw all over this team but the defense got the turnovers and the offense kept on scoring. No matter how you slice it, beating the Colts while giving them equal time offensively makes the victory more significant.

Sinking Ships

  • The injury bug may not be biting often but the bites are deep. Maurice Jones-Drew, though playing hard and well last weekend, still seems to lack the break away burst. But more concerning is the likely absence of Justin Durant and Rashad Jennings. Durant's absence is significant to a thin LB corps that will be asked to contain the under performing C. J. Spiller and the road grader that is Fred Jackson. Additionally, without Jennings the backup role falls on Karim and possibly Greg Jones and\or Montell Owens. I don't care how bad the Bills look on paper, they put 30 on the Patriots. I'd feel better with at least Jennings to spell Drew.
  • I won't say much about this because Adam Stites already addressed it here, but this Derek Cox soap opera must see some closure. This is the perfect game to get him some playing to see where his head is at, if the problem is confidence. We surely aren't obligated to any explanation from Del Rio but if the benching is more personal than performance, the team and fan schism could be terminal. So far the team is saying all the right things, but the arrow is not pointing up on this one.
  • Jaguar fans. This one may not be popular but please hear me out. When David Garrard was booed coming out of the tunnel on Sunday it really irritated me. Regardless of how you feel about his past performances, the negative reaction should follow that day's performance. Then we have the Twitter attack on Mike Sims-Walker. Now Sims-Walker was partially NFL fans due to fantasy woes, but I expect more from our fan base. Surely some will criticize me, explaining both were deserved, but that just isn't how I approach the game. As long as this season is active, I'll voice my concern and frustration, but not before the game and surely not to the level Mike endured.
  • The Jaguars rushing defense, in spite of what some think, was not bad. They gave up 3.9 ypc to Joseph Addai with a long run of seven yards. This was their lowest yield of the year to an opposing team's leading back. However, a good portion of Addai's yardage was up the middle. It is debatable whether the success was due to the no huddle, shotgun draws or the failure of Alualu and Knighton to clog up the middle. Obviously draws exploit lanes, but there are weaknesses to be exploited. Tyson doesn't have Knighton's lower body base and Terrance will benefit from continued conditioning. The Colts also did do a nice job with double teams. Seeing clips of 4, 6 and 7 yards regularly up the gut of the defense is cause for concern. 
  • Jacksonville's kick off team had their worst performance of the year against the Colts. Now they travel to Buffalo and face the 5th rated player in YPR in C. J. Spiller. The Colts special teams are not threatening yet they had kick off return longs of 39 and 33 yards respectively. The Jaguars need to come into Ralph Wilson Stadium and play flawless in the return game. Allowing the Bills to make a game of it with limited offensive and defensive production would be deflating.

I do feel the need to qualify my concern towards the interior of the defensive line. If you watch the Jaguars\Colts game you'll see Alualu get turned around some on double teams, but when he is one on one the hands are strong and fast, he pushes back the defender and he can hit the gap with a quick first step. The kid is in no way under performing. Time should see both tackles correct any flaws or at least adjustments will be made to compensate.

Having to work hard at finding those sinking ships is an up hill battle I will gladly fight. On we roll to another week and hopefully consistency in another victory.

Roll on with the dreamers, believers in the steel eyed soul.

The blessing is counted when the deal goes down.

So on and on we roll.

Son Volt - Roll On

- Brian Fullford

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