What should we expect for the question mark players?
First I should establish who I am referring to when I say "question mark players." I am speaking of those players who have under preformed in the last few years. The players who have caused the fans of this team to say one of two things: keep them or get rid of them. It is interesting how avid fans can be about their opinion – I find there are very few who don’t have an opinion. I do – though I hope mine doesn’t come out too much in this post. Where it does, you’ll now. Now, the players I wish to look at are the following:
Derrick Harvey, Quentin Groves, Brad Meester, Reggie Nelson. I also would like to review a player who was in this position last year, Marcedes Lewis. I simply want to look at what I believe we can expect of them in the next year or so. Will they be here? What kind of seasons can we expect out of them if they do stay? Now, I won’t go into tremendous details – perhaps if it is wanted, I could do more detailed posts… anyway, let’s start with Lewis.
He is not here because of what his situation is this offseason, but last. I remember the talk about him being another first round "bust." Sure, he showed some flashes but many fans considered him unworthy of the position he was selected and a mediocre TE. Heck, I remember thinking Greg Estandia was going to be better than Lewis would be. Indeed – when he was drafted we all thought it was for his catching skills, and yet he only has 2 TDs in each of the last three years. His first downs per year have stayed around 20. However, the improvement this past year came in the average yards per catch. I compared Lewis to some of the league’s best (in my opinion).
Dallas Clark (IND) Games: 16 Rec: 100 Yards: 1106 Rec Avg:11.1 Rec TDs: 10
Marcedes Lewis (JAC)Games: 15 Rec: 32 Yards: 518 Rec Avg:16.2 Rec TDs: 2
Heath Miller (PIT)Games: 16 Rec: 76 Yards: 789 Rec Avg:10.4 Rec TDs: 6
Jeremy Shockey (NO)Games: 14 Rec: 48 Yards: 569 Rec Avg:11.9 Rec TDs: 3
Ben Watson (NE)Games: 16 Rec: 29 Yards: 404 Rec Avg:13.9 Rec TDs: 5
Jason Witten (DAL)Games: 16 Rec: 94 Yards:1030 Rec Avg:11.0 Rec TDs: 2
Most of these players I listed I would not consider blocking tight ends, but Marcedes compares to them decently well (and he is the best blocker of the bunch of them). Notice the receiving average. Last offseason the jury was still deliberating on him. Today, I’d say that the verdict is that he seems to a player we will be able to rely on for years. Keep him in mind when think about these other players – that one year could be all it takes to change our opinion of him.
This coming season I expect to see more use of his height in the red zone. He has long arms and a great jump. I also expect to see him used differently in blocking schemes.
Derrick Harvey/Quentin Groves:
I am going to write on these two together. Sadly for one of them, I won’t have much to write. The other I will have a lot. Harvey has suffered many fans’ loathing for the way he came to play on the team. First, likely the most hated draft move in Jaguars recent history to move up to select him in the top-10. Second and likely more of a contribution to the loathing was his hold-out that was rumored to be solely the fault of his agent. No one would have minded the hold-out if he had played well… but as we all know, he didn’t. Groves was seen as a 3rd down DE with great straight line speed. Harvey was supposed to be an every-downs DE. The two of them were suppose to save our pass rush.
In two years the pair has combined for a grand total of 94 tackles, 8 sacks, 2 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles. I could likely find a list of players who have those stats in one year by themselves – but I trust that you guys believe me on that.
(On a note unrelated to the players themselves – if these two draft picks had panned out, I think we’d be in a worse position, because I do not believe that Shack Harris would have lost his job, and we would not have had the draft we had last year… but hey, that is just my opinion.)
In any case, the number production for these two players has been rather horrible… but I’d like us to look at the context of these stats.
Their first two years as NFL players were under two totally different defensive coordinators. Not only different, but totally new to the club. There was no established scheme. In 08 we saw some pro-bowl caliber veteran players struggle with the new schemes and plays defensive coordinator Greg Williams was throwing out there. It is hard enough for a rookie in their first year, let alone one with that going on. That is no excuse, however. Last year in 09 we they saw another DC come in and the scheme change – right after they were getting use to the first one. Anyway…
This past season we had the chance to see a number of things from the two. First thing to note I think is the QB pressures. Sack numbers suck, to be blunt, so what do we look at? How easily and often did they pressure the QB. Harvey had 23 on the year while Groves had 13. Robert Mathis from IND, for comparison sake, had 44 (these are all from profootballfocus.com). When watching the games I believe it was easy to see that Harvey was playing very hard often. He was the only player on the defensive line able to constantly get into the opponent’s backfield – and he often did it is ways that made me, at least, grin. Sadly, these rarely turned into sacks. Most of the time he was left chasing the QB, RB or the QB simply got rid of the ball. Groves… well, he had that interception…
When I look at Harvey I can see a player who still has the ability to make a big impact. While I wanted him to turn out to be a great sack machine in his first year I still have hope that he will turn out to be a good or even great player with the right help (another good DE) or coaching. Here is a comment from new DL coach Joe Cullen about Derrick Harvey:
(Article at Jacksonville.com:)
Cullen is especially fond of Harvey, a player he says the Lions targeted with their first-round pick (No. 17) two years ago before the Jaguars traded up to take him. He believes Harvey, despite having just two sacks last season, can still be a force in the league.
As for Groves… I don’t expect much. If we were to drop him this offseason I wouldn’t be surprised or mad – but if we keep him to see if he decides to compete next year and has a coming out party, I would be extremely happy. But… I just don’t see him doing better than he has. Maybe he would be more productive for another team. If so, I hope he finds that team eventually.
Harvey – well, the arrow is pointing up. I look forward to seeing him play next year. I hope he can get those sack numbers up, and that things turn around for him. He has the talent – and I believe it will come out. I hope it will.
Reggie is on thin ice. Extremely thin ice. After a productive rookie season in 07, his play dropped off drastically these last two years. To give you an idea of just how bad he has been, ProFootballFocus.com has him rated as the 63rd best safety in the league. Not only that, but towards the end of the season the coaches started other players in the place of the former 1st round pick. So what happened? In 07 he had 5 interceptions and seemed to be a hard hitting, decent covering safety. But in the last two years he has only 2 interceptions and has been, if anything, suspect in coverage. Time and time again TEs and WRs exploit his speed and apparent inability to change direction quick. QBs seem to fake him out more often than poker players bluff. Not only that, but Gene Smith hasn’t commented on his position on keeping or getting rid of Reggie.
Despite all of this, I still think there is ability in this player – and that opinion isn’t influence by the fact that I went to the same high school at the same time as Reggie. He has the size, speed and athletic ability to play safety at a high level. Some have suggested that he does not study film enough, or that he is distracted by something in his personal life. Whatever it is, I do not think it is something that can’t be fixed. And if it is fixed, I can see him jumping into the ranks of the top safeties in the league.
What about his future here? Will there be one? Watch the draft and free agency. I believe that Gene will keep him, but a surprise move in the draft or free agency could change things. If he stays, I can’t say what I expect… I think he will see less playing time in the beginning of the year unless he comes on really strong in the preseason. The coaches will watch his play and see if he has improved. If so, he will get more and more playing time. If not, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was cut mid-season.
This is the saddest of these to write. Brad has been my favorite offensive line player for years. He was a very strong center for us in years past. I remember praying for his injury to heal a few years ago so he could return to play. However, there is one thing all but one premium position player has been plagued with: Age. Brad is suffering from this horrible disease that will one day consume us all. Sadly, I see no way for him to improve. As I watched his play this past year I knew that his time was coming to an end. I am glad that he was voted by the fans and Vic onto the all-Jaguars team earlier today. He truly has been a consistent and talented center for us for years. However, his time is coming to an end here. I see almost no way around this.
Whether the Jags draft a center, pick one up in free agency or move someone else from the line; I cannot see any way he will be playing center here next season.
So, here is the short version of what I expect:
Lewis: He will continue to play well and will get more play in the passing game
Harvey: He will be here next year and I believe he will play well
Groves: He will either be cut, or a non-factor next year. Hope for more, but don't expect it.
Nelson: This is the hardest. I expect he will still be playing next year, and I personally believe he will improve.
Meester: He will not likely be here next year, sadly. (edited in: and if he is, he'll not be likely to start)
So… that is it. Again, they are not super detailed, and are my opinions, but I hope you enjoyed reading them. What do you guys think - do you agree about where these player will be? What do you think their seasons will be like next year?