After reviewing the first four games of the season, I thought I'd take the time to give you some feedback on what you saw, what you read, and what you didn't see. Through four games, the Jaguars were sitting at 2-2. Not bad, not good. The inconsistencies early on didn't leave the best feelings about the team. The great highs coupled with the deep lows left fans not really knowing what to think about this team early on. They were young, but growing up fast. Here's a breakdown of the positions:
Quarterback: David Garrard was the only one at the helm these first four weeks, and rightfully so. Consistency was definitely the issue. Ball control, and letting David just be David should have been the focus of offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, but he asked him to be too much of a pocket passer early in the season. In the two wins against the Broncos and Colts, he was not just efficient, but good, throwing for 328 yards, 5 touchdowns and no interceptions. But, in the two losses, 278 yards, 1 touchdown and 5 interceptions. The team lives and dies by Garrard. By the Colts game, he was moving a little bit more out of the pocket and seemed more comfortable getting a couple carries a game.
Running backs: Jones-Drew was and will be the catalyst for this offense. Through four weeks, he has 81 carries for 322 yards and one touchdown, a nearly 4.0 yard/carry average. At times he was brilliant with his vision of the field, finding great cutback lanes (a la Fred Taylor) where none could be found. Rashad Jennings may be the change-of-pace back the Jaguars were looking for to complement MJD. He was a great pass-catcher early in the season, but if I was a defensive coordinator, I'd expect a pass when he's in the game. Still, he demands an athletic cover guy on him at all times and gave Jones-Drew much deserved rest at times. Greg Jones was being the beast I always knew he was. He throws monster blocks at times, springing huge runs at ease. He did his job and he did it well.
Offensive Line: The big men up front were inconsistent at times, to say the least. In the Broncos and Colts game, they provided great running lanes and protected David Garrard pretty well. The problem was in the Chargers and Eagles game, way too much pressure was allowed. A game allowing 7 sacks to the Eagles is inexcusable. The constant pressure led to the lowest passing total in team history. That has to change. Justin Smiley, the Jaguars signee in the offseason, seemed mediocre at best. He whiffed way too often and had false start after false start. He looked lost in this offense. The tackles played decently, Monroe the better of the two. Meester showed signs of age early in the season, but turned it around. This was crucial, because any astute Jaguar fan knows that runs are up the gut with this team.
Wide Receivers: Mike Sims-Walker, the heralded number one on this team, was invisible at times, then the go-to-guy in others. He's a great possession guy, but he seems timid running over the middle. His slants can be effective, but you can go to the well once too many times, as evidenced by him getting stripped by Antoine Cason in week 2. Mike Thomas emerged as the big play guy. His quickness, coupled with some nice moves, make him a weapon. I like the reverses to him to get him out in space, as well as the quick bubble screen that gets the ball out of David Garrard's hands and into the hands of a play maker fast. Tiquan Underwood came up huge in the Colts game making the clutch catches on the final drive. Otherwise, it's been pretty bare at receiver.
Tight Ends: Marcedes Lewis is a force to be recognized. He already developed into one of the elite tight ends in this game. His athleticism for a 6-6 275 lb guy is unfathomable. His routes are crisp and he's David Garrard's favorite target no matter the field position. He lives for jump balls. His 2 touchdown game against the Broncos was a thing of beauty, proving a mismatch on whomever covered him. Zach Miller needs to get in the mix more as a speedy tight end who needs to get out in space.
Defensive Line: What a huge improvement in one offseason. 8 sacks in four games. Huge amounts of pressure at times, other times, not so much. Huge penetration and lots of runs for losses/no gain. Aaron Kampman has changed this defense. He commands a double team on every play and still gets to the quarterback. Knighton and Alualu are quickly rising as a tandem to Stroud-Henderson form on the inside. Jeremy Mincey is making a nice push for the starting job over Derek Harvey, who's displaying his usual ghostly nature. A huge improvement early on in total though.
Linebackers: The heart of this defense, they looked good, yet susceptible to tough plays sometimes. Kirk Morrison is great in run support, but can't cover a tight end to save his life. Justin Durant looks solid but confused as to his position on the play. Daryl Smith, the heart and soul of the defense, is a tackling machine, reading plays quickly. His interception to seal the Broncos win was sensational. They are thin with only putting Russell Allen in for relief purposes, but they hang in there. Much better against the run than the pass, but that probably would go for the whole defense.
Defensive Backs: Oh boy. Here's the huge gap in the defense. No one can cover. There may be plays here and there, but watching Peyton Manning slice our defense up was a wake-up call. Rashean Mathis can be beat, makes nice plays occasionally, but it's frustrating that he has his "one side of the field" and receivers like Reggie Wayne or Brandon Lloyd or DeSean Jackson would be on the other. David Jones, acquired in the trade to get rid of the let down Reggie Nelson, looked good at times, but most of the time, he was left in the dust by good route runners and double moves to play on his stubbornly aggressive nature. He turns his hips terribly and has his eyes in the backfield way too often. In the carousel that is the safety positions, it's hard to figure things out. Anthony Smith seems to make plays while getting beat at times. He's a good tackler, as is Sean Considine. Gerald Alexander seems to be the best in coverage to help out corners, as does Don Carey, but none of them seem particularly good. Corners are left high and dry in cover 2 where you count on your safety to prevent the big play. This carousel will have to end soon and two must emerge as the weekly starters, but this is the weak link in the defense, getting torched every week.
Special Teams: Underwood looked great at kick return filling in for Karim and McGee who were both injured. Great field position was a luxury on kickoffs. Mike Thomas likes to dance on punt returns more than go up the field, but sometimes east & west will lead to north & south. Podlesh has looked good punting the ball. His coverage team, with newcomer Kassim Osgood look fantastic stopping balls inside the opponents' 5 yard line routinely. And Scobee is the player we always knew he could be. Perfect on the season through four weeks without a kick under 40 yards. His game winner against the Colts from 59 yards can speak for itself. It is a nice luxury to get 3 points automatically. He's got ice water in his veins.