The Jacksonville Jaguars played an exceptional game against the Houston Texans yesterday in Reliant Stadium. Everything about these Jaguars showed that they are on the right track in nearly all aspects of rebuilding the team. Here's some major keys that stuck out to me when analyzing the game.
First off, let me put a misnomer to rest. Mike Thomas didn't play the first two games because he was learning the offense due to missing much of the preseason with injury. He wasn't held out because the coaches are fools. They see these players everyday (except Tuesday), and they know where they're at in terms of progression. That being said, Mike Thomas played lights out on Sunday. He showed his effectiveness as a runner on numerous reverses and is just the kind of spark this offense desperately needs.
Kudos to Dirk Koetter for devising running plays that don't force Thomas to block. He's small and would be a liabilty when blocking CB's in the run-game. By using him to fake a reverse on hand-offs to MJD, it forces the defense to account for him, thereby nullifying a defender without Mike having to physically block the man. Brilliant design.
The wildly inconsistent Dirk Koetter, called an excellent game for the most part. I was perplexed by the run call on 3rd and 12 from the Jaguars 12 yard line. It's not like we were inside the five and needed room to punt... So what gives on that call? Other than that play, which guaranteed failure, I didn't see too many other plays that had me scratching my head, except that he's utterly predictable based on down and distance. The Jaguars stick to their tendencies way too often in my opinion, and that falls on the offensive coordinator's head. However, he called a good game today, and I was impressed with his utilization of Mike Thomas in the run game to keep him from having to physically block a man to take him out of the play.
MJD is showing that his is our feature back, and the front office made the right decision to pen him to a long term deal. He was the star of the game again with 3 TD's. Way to go Drew.
Mike Sims-Walker paid for how loosely he carries the football, and almost cost the team the game. That being said, we won, which makes it just a great teaching moment. Mike had 6 catches for 81 yards and continues to improve vastly week-to-week. As long as he can stay healthy, I can see him potentially breaking 1000 yards this season. Torry Holt was again "Mr. Consistency", and has been our best free agent signing in years. Way to go Gene Smith.
As far as the JDR challenge on the Sims-Walker fumble is concerned, I interpreted it as an attempt to slow the huge momentum shift that just occurred. Think about it, the defense just held Houston to a three-and-out, and in all reality, probably didn't think they would even see the field again. Then, suddenly a huge play happens and everything is in disarray, so what does a good coach do? Use the timeouts he's provided with to gather his team. He might as well challenge the play while he's at it, because it usually takes longer to review a play than it does for a standard timeout. Don't get hung up on what was a good move by the coach.
Our offensive line is growing, and quickly. Monroe and Britton are both making strides that have allowed David to actually plant his foot and throw with proper mechanics. It's amazing how much more effective Garrard is when he actually has some time in the pocket, and as the season progresses, he'll have even more time to throw. This is encouraging, as were the holes I saw open up for MJD.
Our LB corp is the strongest unit on the squad, and have made the typically painful shift to a 3-4 seem almost smooth. This formation allows all of our best defensive players to be on the field at the same time. Durant, and Smith are possibly two of the best LB's the jaguars have ever had. Forget Kevin Hardy, or Hardy Nickerson for that matter. These guys are the core of our Defense, and will be for years to come.
John Henderson and Terrence Knighton are the Jaguars' best defensive linemen, and I don't know that I've seen a rookie third-round NT make such a big impact as quickly as Knighton has. John Henderson seems to be flourishing at DE in a 3-4 scheme. He's gobbling blockers up and allowing our LB's to fly to the ball carrier. He seems to be energized by Knighton's presence on the team, and is looking like (gasp) he might return to his prior form.
The Jaguars are getting top-notch play from their CB position, and lackluster execution from their safeties. It is infuriating to watch. Considine has the mind, but not the God-given ability to be great. Nelson has the God-given ability, but I don't think he's grasping the changes happening on Defense. He's still out of position on a regular basis, and his nose for interceptions seems to have left him. He's not a big hitter, he's out of position, and he's not creating turnovers... The only problem with replacing him is, I'm not sure he still isn't the best option we've got. As of now, Safety is a major focus in the off-season next year.
Mathis showed us all again today that he's a pro-bowl CB and deserves to be recognized as such. Derek Cox is showing growth, and I like what I see from the rookie in terms of tackling and physicality. He's as good at making the tackle as B-Dub was in his prime. This kid will continue to improve.
Way to go to the whole coaching staff for making some crucial adjustments at half-time. The Defense allowed just 3 points the entire second-half, and when we start getting four quarters like that out of them, we'll start to see a lot more wins pile up. Mel Tucker and Jack Del Rio called out the defense this week, and they responded.