So you've seen my bold predictions for the upcoming NFL season. Now, let's get to what everyone on this site really wants to know: what my expectations are for the Jaguars this year, and they may not all be bold, but I can promise sound reasoning behind them all. I'm going to describe this season as "the step forward". As Rashean Mathis said in a press conference a week ago, "This team isn't still rebuilding. This team is built," or something along those lines. And he's right.
1. (from Bold Predictions for the 2011 NFL Season) The Jacksonville Jaguars will win the AFC South and host a playoff game. This has been a long time coming, but the Jaguars on paper seem to be the most complete team in this division. Tennessee will be better with Hasselbeck at QB (most of their pass routes are west coast and he's the quintessential west-coast-offense QB), an improved pass defense with Joseph and Manning will still have trouble adjusting to the 3-4 in Houston, and an aging defense coupled with a slow-to-return Peyton Manning in Indianapolis leaves the least to question in Jacksonville. In summary, I just feel that the other teams in the division haven't improved much, if at all.
2. Maurice Jones-Drew will have 2,000 yards from scrimmage. Yes, you read that right. Yes, I know he's coming off an injury. I'm expecting 1,500 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards; both would be career highs. I think with a questionable passing game (because of the lack of weapons, not the quarterback) Jones-Drew will be fed the rock more than ever, and he'll take advantage. A revamped offensive line will spring him to the next level more often. Yes, in many 3rd and long situations he's spelled by Rashad Jennings but that won't stop him from doing damage on the early downs. One bit of concern lies in the decrease in touchdowns: 15 rushing td's in 2009, 5 in 2010. Probably also attributed by Marcedes Lewis becoming a huge red-zone target. I think this will be MJD's biggest season to date, and I'm really hoping he pulls through on this prediction.
3. David Garrard will get injured and "Blaine and Simple" (courtesty of Eric Levenson) will start in his absence. We all hope this doesn't happen, you never want to see your starting qb go down with an injury. But judging by how much at times I saw Garrard get beat up, it's almost an inevitability unfortunately. Hopefully it will be 4 games or less, but Blaine Gabbert will start in relief of him. The questions will swirl in this time period if Gabbert should be the full-time starter depending on his play in those games. I'm really hoping the position isn't passed down in such a rushed manner. Who knows how well the Jaguars will do in those games should Garrard get hurt, but if it happens, the whole team will be under scrutiny, and Jack Del Rio's head will be on the block depending on those game performances.
4. Marcedes Lewis will have double-digit touchdowns again this season. This guy is a freakish athlete. He's a mismatch for any linebacker looking at the film. A safety? Forget it, he's too gangly for them it's like Shaq versus Spud Webb for a rebound. He is by far, David Garrard's favorite target as well. In the red zone, you know who it's going to pass-wise. Shack Harris's only 1st round draft pick still with the team, Marcedes Lewis will be a force in the NFL again this season and it's nice to actually reap the rewards from a good first rounder (an unfamiliar feeling from the Shack Harris era).
5. There will not be a 1,000 yard receiver for the Jaguars this year (unless it's Marcedes Lewis). There are no weapons out there. No true #1 receiver. No separation off the line of scrimmage. A lot of balls will have to be forced into tight windows, and it doesn't bode well for the Jaguars passing attack. I'm hoping I'm proven wrong here.
6. The Jaguars defense will be top 10 in rush defense and top 15 in pass defense. Did I really just say that? I'm convinced with the newly powerful linebacking group, coupled with an ever-improving d-line, the Jaguars won't get gassed in games via the running game. Posluzny and Session are huge upgrades over Morrison and Durant. In pass defense, I feel that a pass rush with only 4 guys rushing will give the linebackers freedom to play better coverage. Couple that with having reliable safety help that will enable corners to play better and the pass defense will greatly improve. Drew Coleman at the nickel is a much safer and exciting option then David Jones, whose disgustingly awful technique is the bane of my existence.
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