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Chinks in the Armor: Maurice Jones-Drew and Mike Peterson question coaches; teammates question each other

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[Note by River City Rage, 09/15/08 6:49 PM EDT ] My original headline is, upon further reflection, misleading.  I did NOT mean to imply that Maurice Jones-Drew and Mike Peterson were questioning each-other, my point was that Jones-Drew and Peterson questioned the Coaches, the latter part was in reference to Rashean Mathis "calling out without calling out" another player on the Hardy TD.

All is not well in Jacksonville this morning.  The team, once considered Super Bowl contenders, is now 0 and 2, and faces the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday in a game that by the most relaxed of standards is a must win.  For the Jaguars to seriously contend for the division or even for the Wild Card, avoiding a 0 and 3 start is critical.  This is obvious, of course, but the team is clearly strugging with the disaster on the offensive line.

What concerns me is the change of tone out of the locker room.  Two of the Jaguars vocal leaders, Maurice Jones-Drew and Mike Peterson each called to question the decisions of the coaches. 

First, Maurice:

"There is no running game if you don't run it, and we just haven't ran the ball, that's all it is, there is nothing else to it," said Maurice Jones-Drew, who carried only seven times for 17 yards and has only 12 carries through two games. "We haven't run the ball, period. We've got to get back to what we are. We're a running team, period. That's all it is. Ask anybody, they'll tell you."

And Mike:

"I can't question it," Peterson said. "It's not my position to question it. I just play. I wish I could question it [but if he did] I'd be on the way out the door."

Peterson said the players have to make the play regardless of the call that comes in from the coaches.

"I look at it from the other perspective," he said. "I've got to make a play. I don't look at it as the coaches not having us in the right coverage. That's the easy way out."

While Peterson doesn't come right out and say it, he failed to reject the premise of the reporters question, and rather than saying "No, I don't question the decision", he instead allowed doubt to come through. 

What bothers me about this is not that Jones-Drew and Peterson called out the coaches in their own way, but that they're probably right in their criticism.  The Jaguars have suffered a remarkable devastation to their offensive line, that's for sure, but to abandon the running game in a grind it out, field position, physical slug fest is a sure way to lose the game.  For all the incomplete passes to Matt Jones, I'd like to think that the Jaguars would have found a few more yards on the ground.  On their touchdown drive in the 3rd quarter, they found some momentum in the running game and scored.  Why they stopped and went back to the pass is beyond me.

I don't even want to talk about the pass play to Lee Evans.  The Jaguars were set up all game long for that play.  The Bills kept the passing game short and underneath for most of the game, and then when the time was right, went right over the top to Evans.  Why the best receiver on the Bills was left on his own is beyond me.

Speaking of pass defense, this quote from Rashean Mathis really grinds my gears:

Cornerback Rashean Mathis, who said was the Jaguars were in a cover-4 defense with four deep back in coverage, was the defender closest to Hardy, but said it wasn't his man.

"I'm not pointing any fingers, but it was a busted coverage," Mathis said.

That's not the "team first" mindset I'd like to hear out of what should be a Pro-Bowl quality cornerback.  Yes, he didn't name names on who blew the coverage, but Rashean likes to consider himself one of the best in the league, so there's no excuse why he didn't close down Hardy and save the touchdown. 

Rough Stuff

The offensive line, regardless of condition, will improve when given the chance.  Unless the coaches have zero faith in the line to open the running game, they must give them the chance to wear down the defensive line and open up rushing lanes.  They'll need time and runs if they're ever going to return to the style of Jaguars football that we know and love. 

Of course, this team also suffers from having zero impact receivers, considering that Porter and Williamson are on the sidelines, Mike Walker is still developing, and Matt Jones is still Matt Jones.  The Jaguars are facing 8 and 9 guys in the box and will continue to do so until someone emerges as a legitimate pass catching threat.

Everything the Jaguars built in the offseason has fallen apart.  Their star defensive end draft pick is late in development because of a hold out.  Their "magic bullet" at wide receiver is sidelined for at least another week.  Everything they did to put the team over the top against teams like the Colts is nowhere near where it needs to be as we go to Indianapolis. 

We need Meester's Bicep to heal as soon as possible.  Meester returning to center allows Norman to go to guard, which should bring us a little closer to a normal offensive line than we have now.

These are my thoughts, how about you?

-Chris