The season is closing out and before I say goodbye, I have some final thoughts. As usual, there is no rhyme or reason to any of them.
I still can't believe how much Eugene Monroe has improved. The pictures of him protecting David against Dwight Freeney and Jason Taylor were enough, but there is more to appreciate. I have noticed a distinct number of run plays to the left recently. I saw the team working on this in training camp but I didn't think it would be as successful as it has become. The NFL publishes an insane amount of statistics and recently added a new catagory for offensive line stats. It takes awhile to to decipher, but here is one that will surprise you. In third or fourh down situations with two yards or less, the Jaguars are third in the league in achieving the needed yardage when running to the left. It is called a power factor and the Jaguars are almost twice as good running to the left as to the right. They lead the league in almost never having negative runs to the left. Running to the left is a real plus and to me that means Eugene Monroe has come on amazingly well in the second half of the season and not just in pass blocking. Tony Boselli says he is a better pass blocker than run blocker. That means even better things are coming. I don't know if he will make the pro bowl, but he won't be much different than those that do.
The right side is not as powerful but if Eben Britton can develop as much as Eugene did, Maurice Jones Drew can be the league rushing leader. I have said this before and it is worth repeating, I would not trade Maurice for Adrian Peterson. Maurice is the complete player. He can block, catch passes, run back kick-offs, and be a top three running back with a line that is leaking badly. He can get 2,000 yards behind a good line. On top of all of this, he is a team leader and motivator. I remember how Michael Jordan dragged the Bulls into being better each year and Maurice has that same spirit.
Someone can check these facts but I am 95% certain they are right. There have been 24 running backs in the NFL who have gained 10,000 yards rushing. Of the 24, only 4 of them were not drafted in the first round; Curtis Martin (3,74), Corry Dillon(2,43), Ricky Watters(2,45) and Tiki Barber(2,36). Maurice Jone Drew was the 60th player selected in the second round. With almost 4,000 yards rushing in 4 seasons, if he gets to 10,000 yards, he will be (in my opinion) second to Curtis Martin as the most overlooked running back in the draft. No one believed he was that good and he has surprised everyone. The only surprise left is if this is his only pro bowl.
A lot of people are mad at David Garrard for not rallying for victory in two recent games. I look at him with awe. Consider this, he is once again the most hit quarterback in the league being hit 117 times. This is 15 times more than the next worse offensive line, the Buffalo Bills. Want to trade David for Phillip Rivers? I wonder how Phillip would do under these conditions. Even Ben Rothlesburger has only been hit 71 times. Peyton Manning is good but he has only been hit 40 times. Maybe that is because he plays us twice a year. Anyway, name me another starting QB who can put up the statistics and make the throws David does under that pressure.
I do believe we can win with David, but I don't think this team will develop as fast as he will decline under the physical abuse he is taking. This team needs to first build a line for running and pass blocking and then needs a top quarterback. Unfortunately, that usually means a first round draft selection. You can point to exceptions, but the best ones show it in college and are drafted early. The Jaguars will have to make that move this year or next. When he comes and takes over, I think Gene will have the team ready and waiting. A really good quarterback can make Jack look real smart.
This next statement is a joke, maybe we should stop drafting. We drafted defensive ends and the pass rush got worse. We drafted offensive linemen and our QB gets sacked more. The 2009 Jaguar offensive line will allow more sacks than the injury riddled patch job line of 2008. Want to know why we aren't in the playoffs? Look to the line play on both sides of the ball. I simply do not understand the offensive line performance this year.
It is funny how the start of the season Derek Cox was the talk of the rookie class for Jaguar fans. He did ok but it was Terrance Knighton who actually pulled in the rookie performance of the year. I will say this, that man must have pants tailor made for him. No store anywhere has a size that can fit him. I can see why he stops the run. We really need Derek Cox to step up a level next year. If he and Eben can improve, this team will begin to impress each week.
I would say it was a surprise to see Marcedes Lewis have a breakout year. That performance improvement was very impressive. We noticed it, but so did the rest of the NFL. He became a third alternate to the Pro Bowl. I don't think he will play, but he was in the conversation. Looking over the pictures, he is a very good blocker. Man did he change our attitude about his hands this year. When you think about it, the Jaguars are not totally lacking for talent. MJD, Eugene, Marcedes, Rahean, Daryl, Justin, Big John, Knighton, and MSW. The core is forming.
Black Monday is almost upon us. The Monday after the last game is when coaches are let go. I can't help but think this game against Cleveland has significance. Mike Holmgren will look at Eric Mangini differently with 4 out 5 wins rather than a closing loss. I don't think Jack Del Rio is in trouble, but respect for him in this town is on the line. He will have a much stronger position with everyone if the team manages a closing win. Is this the year Ted Monochino gets the axe? Wow, is there a defensive line coach in the NFL with a worse resume? Watch his Jaguar biography, he will take credit for Pot Roast. Read his write-up on the Jaguar site sometime.
OK, like I said, these were my thoughts before I said goodbye. With Brian and Adam coming on board, it is time for me to go, this will be my last post. It was fun trying to make this site relevant and interesting. You guys, all of you, make it that way. Keep it up, but more than that, buy tickets to the game. Keep it clean, keep it informative, and farewell to all. See you at the stadium.
- Terry O'Brien