The Jacksonville Jaguars completed their offseason training activities yesterday with a final practice. With this, the Jaguars now have 45 days until the opening of training camp on Saturday, July 26th. Most players and coaches will take a vacation and spend time with their families as what promises to be a very long season.(February, perhaps!) It's time well deserved, as there's very little idle time between the end of the season and the start of draft season.
Interestingly, I'm less morose about the beginning of the "dead zone" than usual. I typically dread the end of OTA's and minicamp because it's the end of any real Jaguars news and other sports are either ending (basketball) or mind-numbing (baseball). This time, I feel anxious about the start of training camp and the season, but there's something reassuring about all this time away from the team.
Maybe it's all the questions that I need to sort out. Questions about the roster, questions about the playbook, questions about the state of the team. The 2008 Jacksonville Jaguars are in so many ways a different team than we're used to. While the Jaguars always suffered from roster shifts, free agency, etc, I can't recall a year of such a drastic remaking of the team, from the coaches to the players than this offseason. I think that's why I'm ready for a few weeks to make sense of it all.
During the next six weeks, Big Cat Country is going to take an exhaustive look at our roster, our coaches, and what we project to be the playbook. They'll be an interview here and there, some special guests, and hopefully the best Jaguars coverage you can find. We'll have some fun, of course, but we'll be keeping a close eye on the calendar. July 26th, so close, yet so far away.
Let's take a quick look at what we know after OTA's and what is still uncertain:
1. David Garrard is on his game. Recent Jaguars history has shown us that our passing game is slow to develop. Not this time, David's throwing freaking lasers, our receivers are catching passes, and things are on track.
2. Gregg Williams is experimenting with the attack. The Jaguars "new" defense, so far, is blitz heavy. It's unclear if this is a way for Gregg Williams to figure out what his players can do or if it's a sign of things to come. It's obvious that the defense we fielded against the Patriots in the Playoffs is dead and gone.
3. Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves are fast. It's hard to measure their impact in their shorts and t-shirts, but speed is obvious. In fact, the entire defense reeks of speed from top to bottom. Can you find a faster defensive group than Harvey, Groves, Mathis, Durant, Peterson, and Nelson?
4. Richard Collier and Justin Durant are rapidly replacing Khalif Barnes and Clint Ingram at their respective starting positions.
We Don't Know:
1. Our wide receivers: I can tell you for sure that Porter, Williams, and Northcutt will be our X, Y, and Slot receivers accordingly. I can tell you with a strong degree of probability that Troy Williamson and John Broussard will be one of the two remaing roster spots. Matt Jones, Mike Walker, and the rest of the bunch are competing for one remaining spot, as carrying six receivers is foolish.
2. Can Troy Williamson keep on catching when the pads are on and it really matters. Yes, Troy has excelled during practice, but he's looked pretty good in Vikings OTA's as well. In fact, we've got questions about all the first round reconstruction projects. Is Jimmy Kennedy going to turn it on at defensive tackle? Will Matt Jones turn his career around and finally take the next step?
3. Will the Jaguars actually bring the heat? Yes, our defense looks fast, but how will it translate in the pads on environment of camp and the preseason?
4. Will the Jaguars make it to September without major injury? No matter how important practice is to developing a playoff team, the most important thing is for the Jaguars to start the season fast and healthy. The AFC South will be decided in the first four weeks of the season, starting slow and injured greatly effects our ability to win the division.
That's my quick take. We've got weeks and weeks to flesh this out further, so be prepared for more analysis.
I'd like to know what you'd like to know about the Jaguars during the dead zone? What would you like to discuss, debate, analyze, etc? What questions do you have about the 2008 Jaguars? I'm happy to explore any topic, so let me know what you're thinking!