This is part one of what will be likely a 5 or 6 article breakdown of the performance of the Jaguars roster based on performance, statistics and the all important eyeball test.
Today I'll be talking about the Jaguars Skill Players: Backs, Receivers, and Tight Ends. For myself, I see this group as likely the teams greatest strength. The Jaguars three Pro Bowlers, Maurice Jones-Drew, Montell Owens, and Marcedes Lewis are all part of this group. Based on that information, one would think of our backs and receivers as a strength, but we actually have more than just the stars at those positions. The Jaguars also have quality depth at those positions. Let's go through it all, piece by piece.Running Back: MJD is a monster. There is no question that he was key to the Jaguars offensive success this year. Putting that aside, there are some concerns about Mo going forward. He ended the season by sitting out two straight games, and missed more playing time than usual due to a knee injury suffered in the preseason. He played through it to gain more than 1300 yards and earn a starting spot in the Pro Bowl. He's taken a real beating, and there were some who have questioned MJD's ability to be an every-down back. I think they're crazy. Mojo makes a point of taking care of his body extremely well. I'd expect him to be back next year without any trouble, but the records should show that those concerns are legitimate ones.
Rashad Jennings proved to be a valuable asset to the Jaguars this season. He ended the season with 682 total yards from scrimmage, and flashed big play ability with his 75-yard TD dash against Oakland. He held his own in the blocking game, and is an excellent receiver. All in all, he has massively outperformed his expectations coming in as a 7th round pick. I'm a fan. Deji Karim had one pretty good game as a Running Back, but was not consistent, and not quite as effective as the Jags were hoping in the return game. He still could turn into a good returner, in which case I'd consider him worth keeping on the roster. We don't need any more help at RB.
Fullback: Gotta love the Jags' fullbacks. Think about this: Montell Owens, a pro bowler, wasn't even good enough to start for us. That tells you how good Greg Jones is. And he really is that good, folks. He's versatile; he blocks extremely well in the running game, is an asset in pass protection, and breaks one tackle at least whenever he gets the ball in his hands. I'm glad Jones didn't get run out of Jacksonville in the offseason, because I promise you there are at least 30 teams that are jealous of us for this guy. Montell Owens is a stud special teamer, as evidenced by the return unit's success, and his selection to the pro-bowl. What we didn't really know is that he can catch also. Brock Bolen made the roster last year on the strength of his willpower and unexpected playmaking ability. Every time I saw him on the field, my heart jumped a little bit. I'm way proud of Brock. I hope he sticks next year, but I have the feeling he might not.
Tight End: I love it when I get to be nice. Marcedes Lewis was a Pro Bowler this year, and it won't be his last time either. He blocks like a Tackle, he strides like a gazelle, and he doesn't go down easily. He had a little trouble with drops this year, but he never seemed to drop anything in the redzone. He was the Jaguars go-to guy when we needed a TD. He tied a team record with 10 TDs as I'm sure you know.
There was lots of talk about Zach Miller coming into this year, and his role in the Jaguars offense. It didn't really materialize, but he did have a few highlight reel plays, most notably his 50+ yard TD against the Texans. When he was on the field, he caused matchup problems and his blocking ability has improved as he has had more time as a TE. Behind Lewis and Miller, the Jaguars still have another viable option at TE. Zach Potter has the potential to be a good quality player. He was brought in as a DE, but was moved over to TE to help block DE's off the line. As it turns out, he has pretty good hands also. Nothing spectacular, but passable.
Wide Receiver: Wide Receiver will get a look or two this offseason. That's not to say that the Jaguars receivers are not a great group. I really like Mike Thomas as a number 2 guy. He was consistent this season, and was the first Jaguars receiver in the last 5 years to grab 60+ passes and pass 800 yards receiving. He even did this while seeing some double-teams later in the year. Mike Sims-Walker has a contract coming up. I'm not sure if he'll be back, due to his disappearance in the middle of the season and some serious injury concerns. As of right now, he's played in 16 games and missed 32 over 3 seasons. He had flashes of brilliance, but showed pretty clearly that he was not a strong enough athlete to hold his own against the great corners in the NFL.
Jason Hill is someone who I'm pretty sure will be back next year. The former 49er ain't a 49er anymore. He's a Jaguar, and he provided the team with the true deep threat the team had hoped that Tiquan Underwood would be. Speaking of Underwood, he found his way to the bench due to his tencency to drop easy balls. Oh well, they can't all be winners. He was a valuable special teamer. Not nearly as special as Kassim Osgood, who was the pro-bowl alternate behind his teammate Montell Owens. He had an incredible ability to down balls inside the 5 and he was everywhere on kickoffs. John Matthews is replaceable.
Likely WR is the only position discussed here that needs any attention. All in all, our backs and receivers are lead by all-stars MJD and Marcedes Lewis, and spotted with young, talented players on the rise. If Sims-Walker is resigned, the Jaguars will likely not need to do anything at all in the draft or free agency. As is, I would half-expect MSW to ask for too much and get let go. In that case we'll either take a guy like Austin Pettis or some other reliable hands guy late in the draft and hope that Jarrett Dillard is what we think he is.
Part two will be on the Jaguars Offensive Line.