After an opening preseason game that caused a plethora of questions about the Jaguars, some were answered Saturday night, while others will need to be addressed next week in Tampa.
Heading into the game, the biggest storyline was the possibility of a "QB controversy" between David Garrard and Luke McCown. After a three and out to start the game, it appeared the fires would grow for Garrard. However, he stepped up big time, twice hitting Mike Sims-Walker for big plays and then throwing a TD pass to Mike Thomas. Garrard finished the game 6/8 for 75 yards and a 145.3 passer rating. On the flip side, Luke McCown wasn't able to channel his inner "McGowen" Saturday night. He put up respectable numbers, but was much closer to the inconsistent QB we saw during much of camp.
A major plus from last night came from the first team offensive line. Although the unit was still without RT Eben Britton, it held it's own against the Dolphins defensive line. David Garrard was given a good amount of time to scan the field and make his reads.The big question for the group is the injury bug. Justin Smiley, Vince Manuwai, and Eben Britton all have major question marks regarding injuries. While Eben will be on the roster one way or another, Smiley and Manuwai may end up being a different story.
Some are beginning to hit the panic button regarding Maurice Jones-Drew's performance through the first two preseason games. I'm not concerned, personally. You can't judge anything off of a couple of carries a game. I'm sure the team will return to it's more ground based attack once the games actually matter.
Also, it was nice to see some big plays from Mike Sims-Walker. After having a "Hold your breathe" moment in Philly, he came back strong. He is clearly the team's best WR, and showed why last night. As long as he can become more consistent in 2010, the Jaguars finally do have a legit #1 WR.
Defensively, it appears that the struggles of 2009 are going to continue. After a first series that saw Tyson Alualu and Aaron Kampman combine for a sack, things returned to the status quo. The Dolphins offensive line handled the Jaguars defensive line for the rest of the night. Whether it was running lanes a truck could go through, or Chad Henne having all day to throw, it seems Joe Cullen has more work to do.
However, after the starters left, 5th round pick DE Austen Lane made his debut. Lane made some excellent plays that showed off his athleticism, including running down a screen pass. It will be fun to watch him grow as the season progresses.
Speaking of the secondary, that is something that is starting to get close to panic time on. The biggest offenders so far were Derek Cox and Don Carey. So far, it seems Cox is having something of a sophomore slump. After leading the team in INTs as a rookie, he has been targeted non-stop in the preseason.
As for Don Carey, he is clearly a nickle guy as best. Despite being talked up by Gene Smith, Carey has shown nothing so far on the field. Concerning Carey, I think Terry summed it up nicely at Black and Teal
Concerning Gene Smith. I am beginning to wonder if he falls in love with his players? His comments on Don Carey were curious. If you put Reggie Nelson on the field next to Don Carey, you would get a higher level of play out of Reggie Nelson. But Gene is touting Don Carey and almost ready to dismiss Reggie. I really think this about Gene, guys drafted by Shack Harris are nothing to Gene except taking up a spot one of his guys should have. I like the roster moves thus far, but those were easy moves. The next layer will come when Gene must cut his own guys. Then we will see where he really is. I might be wrong about him, I probably am. Just putting it out there.
Overall, the Jaguars still have a lot of work to do. It was a better performance than the beatdown Philadelphia handed the first team units, but still not an acceptable one. The Jaguars will face Tampa next in a game that the first team should shine. Philly and Miami are legitimate playoff contenders, while Tampa will most likely be picking in the Top 10 next April. If things don't come together and shine vs the Bucs, then the Red panic button may be appropriate.