As i was talking to my dad earlier today, I thought about the current situation of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the threat of relocation and a dismantled coaching staff. The majority of people seem to think that as long as the Jaguars continue to show improvement and win, then they will be stay out of the LA discussion. I, myself, tend to agree with this way of thinking and I decided to take a look into the actual chances of this becoming a reality. The goal for our 2011 team is playoffs or bust. What are the actual chances of us reaching those goals? I'll give my two cents after the jump.
Since winning is the only option at this point, it is up to Gene Smith to add quality players to the roster who will help get this team into the playoffs. So looking at the current team, who do we need to resign? It is a consensus that Marcedes Lewis is THE number one priority. The man has become a pro bowl caliber tight end and helps create holes for one of the league's best running backs. He needs to be signed to a long term contract, but if he isn't, then he will be franchise tagged. The next priority to me is the wide receiver situation. Jason Hill seems to be an easy sign because of his limited playing time the last two years whereas Sims Walker is much more difficult. He's most likely going to walk into free agency asking for too much money and some team will take the bait. If the Jaguars can get him at a reasonable price, then by all means they should resign him. After they've decided on who to resign from that crop, they need to resign Courtney Greene. He played very well last year and caused a plethora of turnovers. With some more development, he could be a very solid starter in the NFL. The last real uncertainty to me is the linebacker situation. I believe one of Durant and Morrison will get cut and the other will be resigned. Durant seems to be a more talented player but is more injury prone. Others tend to think that once Morrison got adapted to being a Jaguar he started playing much better. Personally, i think Morrison is going to be kept because outside linebackers are much easier to find and Morrison deserves another season to prove his worth. The last two people who i think will be resigned are Podlesh and McCown and the two of them should sign fairly easily.
Once we have resigned our free agents, our starters will look primarily like this.
WR-Thomas and ____. I put a blank there because although Jason Hill will be resigned, i don't see him as a starter on our team. This also means Sims Walker walks.
OL-Monroe, Britton, Nwaneri, Manuwai, and Meester
DE-Kampman and ____. I feel like Lane and Mincey will be very good rotational players next year but I'm not sure if they're the answer.
DT-Alualu and Knighton, of course
LB- Smith, Morrison, and ___
CB- Cox and Mathis, although I don't feel like Mathis will be starting for much longer.
S- Greene and ____
As you can see, this means we'll have holes at WR, DE, Outside LB, S, and CB. Some are definitely greater than the other since our WR corp will hopefully have Dillard back from IR and I think everyone is anxious to see how he does. DE is also serviceable with Lane and Mincey, but it can be approved. Finally, CB is serviceable with Mathis playing for a little while longer. This means that S and LB are our two biggest concerns and Gene Smith has already said that this year's draft is very weak in Safeties, but very strong in DEs and CBs. Although this could be a ploy to distract everyone from something Gene has in mind, this means that one of our first three picks will be a corner, one will be a DE or LB, and one will be a QB, since we need a developmental guy. Since Gene feels like there are few Safeties in this draft class, I feel he will be very aggressive in acquiring a young NFL talent that will solidify the free safety position. After he has found another "Aaron Kampman" like free agent, I think he will follow it with another "Kassim Osgood" type guy at WR or O-line. He may not be the best player available, but he will work his tail off for this team. After signing a Safety and another player, preferably a WR or O-lineman, we will have filled a hole and half of another one. This leaves us with DE, LB, and CB.
This leaves us with the last piece to the puzzle of our offseason, the NFL draft. In the first round, we are going with the best available defensive player. Our defense was our weak point last year, which means it needs to be fixed immediately. I feel like our pick is going to come down to Cam Jordan, Von Miller, Akeem Ayers, Kerrigan, or anyone of significance who has a huge fall. Personally, I'd like to see Cam Jordan in a Jags uniform to compliment Kampman next season but thats just my opinion. In the second round, I would prefer to see a CB taken or else take our QB of the future. In the third, LB or CB. There are some good prospects left like Nate Irving that should really help our team. The last two important picks are the 4th round picks because i feel that Gene Smith has done very well at selecting role players at the end of the draft. Offensive line and more defensive depth should be addressed in the 4th round.
The point I'm trying to get across to everyone is that our team is in very good shape to be a winning team when September rolls around. For the most part, we have the same team that won us 8 games last year, plus a new crop of talent from FA and the draft. Yes, we have some glaring holes that NEED to be addressed, but with solid drafting from Gene and swaying a big time free agent, like last year, we can seriously compete next season. The one thing that Gene needs to do in the draft is make sure our first three picks are playmakers! We have 5 picks in the first 4 rounds and we need to add playmakers to our team. I know some of you will immediately tell me that I'm being optimistic, but who says you're not being incredibly pessimistic. The bonus that comes with having a team filled with incredible human beings, is that they have a drive to get better and are not satisfied with just being good. Gene has put players on our roster that want to be the best they can be and will stop at nothing until they achieve their goals. This means that guys like Mike Thomas, Rashad Jennings, Courtney Greene, and Larry Hart are going to continue to improve and show the world what the Jaguars stand for. We have a very solid core of young players who will continue to grow. Tell me, did anyone see Knighton turning into a Pro Bowl caliber DT when he arrived at training camp? No, but his work ethic made him better and all of our players have that motor. I can't wait to see what Alualu's second year will be like now that i mention Knighton. Our team has one of the brightest future out of any in the NFL, except for maybe New England, and we are on our way to being an unstoppable force. LA is not in the Jaguars' future with GM Gene at the helm and we are on our way to a Super Bowl. Our time of partying in the streets all night is coming.
The State of the Jaguars is... VERY good.