Following the overtime loss to the Bills on Saturday night, there has been much negativity surrounding the Jaguars. The most notable of the concerns is the lack of a truly strong performance from either David Garrard or Blaine Gabbert for a second consecutive week.
That’s certainly not the end of the concerns though, as the defense didn’t do much to impress and the offensive line continued to struggle in protection. Despite these obvious concerns and negatives, I’m not panicking. Maybe it’s just me.
The Jaguars finished 2010 with the 27th most passing yards per game and the league’s 3rd best rushing offense. The defense finished near the bottom of just about every category. So what has changed from last year?
Maurice Jones-Drew will be back for the regular season. While there will be a new face at left guard, I expect the running game to gel like it perennially has since Jones-Drew was drafted by the Jaguars. Barring serious regression from the other four starters, it only makes sense that the Jaguars would again lean on the run in 2011.
The largest question and story line in the preseason has been the development of Blaine Gabbert and his competition with David Garrard. As such, I believe the Jaguars have designed their preseason game plans to give plenty of live throwing reps to their quarterbacks.
During the regular season I’d expect a much more ground-oriented plan of attack. In fact, the 2010 Jaguars threw the ball just 469 times. The Raiders had the fewest attempts in the league with 466. When the emphasis swings towards rushing again, the deficiencies of the pass game will be masked.
Defensively, the Jaguars will be better. The largest issue for the team in the preseason on defense has been the lack of a pass rush. Through three games there has yet to have been a sack recorded by the Jaguars.
Against the Falcons the combination of Tyson Alualu and Jeremy Mincey managed to force some pressure against Matt Ryan while Terrance Knighton occupied interior blockers. Without Mincey, Kampman and Alualu in the defensive rotation on Saturday, Fitzpatrick remained upright and comfortable for the entirety of the game.
I’m confident that the additions of Clint Session, Paul Posluszny, Dawan Landry and Drew Coleman will round out the rest and make the defense better than it was in 2010. Maybe not an elite, top 10 defense, but better.
So while the preseason has exposed some concerns, specifically at quarterback, wide receiver and offensive line, I’m not panicking. September 11 will be the day when I can decide whether or not 2011 is panic worthy or not.