The final preseason game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the St. Louis Rams is over, and for the love of all things holy the preseason has finally come to a close. So, what did we learn about the Jaguars in the game last night?
We learned the offensive line has a ways to go. According to ESPN.com, the Jaguars quarterbacks were hit six times, but I'm pretty sure it was at least three times more than that. Starting quarterback David Garrard was nearly hit on literally all 5 pass attempts. Luke McCown was flushed out of the pocket when he came into the game. Left tackle Eugene Monroe remains inconsistent in his technique, which gives up pressure. He seems to have a tendency to drop his head in his kick slide, which if the defensive end isn't bull rushing, usually means you'll get beat. Rookie guard Will Rackley had a rough night, and right tackle Guy Whimper remains a huge liability.
"It's a frustrating thing, you want to keep moving forward," guard Uche Nwaneri said after the game. "We just have to find the positives, a lot of quarterbacks get hit on three step drops. We have to give him (Garrard) the ability to step up and we can't let people come up the middle," Nwaneri said of the line play.
Runningback Maurice Jones-Drew got his first action of the preseason and showed some good burst on a 14-yard run, where he was tackled by the ankles. He finished the night with 5 carries for 14 yards, as he was bottled up and tackled for a loss on his other four runs.
It wasn't just the pass protection that made the offensive output so putrid, it's a combination of things that all come together in glorious failure. There were a couple of plays where Garrard did have time and made some poor decisions. On one play it looked like it was supposed to be a 3-step drop and a quick slant to receiver Jason Hill. The Rams had the play sniffed out however, and his wasn't open. Garrard pumped the ball, realizing it was covered, then kid of did the "Oh no!" dance and panicked, trying to run and getting sacked. A few plays later, Garrard stared down receiver Mike Thomas from the hike of the ball through his drop back and I guess thought he was open, because he threw the ball up to Thomas and three Rams defensive backs right before getting hit again. If the throw was better than it was, it very well could have been intercepted. Now, Garrard was under duress the entire game, but you still need to limit those mistakes.
Garrard was asked after the game if he was frustrated with the lineplay, "Yeah, just a little bit. There are some things we need to work on and make sure we have straightened up before opening week." When David Garrard came out of the game with what looked like an injury to his arm, he ripped into the offensive line on the sideline, as he should have.
Defensively the team didn't fare much better. Breaking news to the rest of the NFL facing the Jaguars: Run lots of screen plays. Stephen Jackson caught one pass, a screen play, and took the ball 27 yards. Cadillac Williams had two catches for 25 yards, both screens. I'm sure there were some others, but the Jaguars defense was ripped up by screens and play action. Safety Courtney Greene got caught in play action that led to a 44-yard touchdown reception by rookie tight end Lance Kendricks. Kendricks ended the night with 3 catches for 74 yards, but was routinely wide open when in the game.
Another day, another 100+ rating for the starting quarterback against the Jaguars defense. Sam Bradford completed 7 of 11 passes for 133 yards and a QB rating of 135.8. With Aaron Kampman and without Tyson Alualu, the Jaguars defensive line again failed to consistently pressure the quarterback. Jeremy Mincey was able to generate some pressure, but with no pressure from anywhere else Bradford was to escape. The team finally got their first sack of the preseason late in the third quarter, when back up defensive tackle Nate Collins sacked Rams quarterback Thaddeus Lewis. Collins actually wound up with both of the Jaguars sacks and half of the total quarterback hits (3).
All in all it was another headscratching performance.