Invincibility lies in the defense; the possibility of victory in the attack.
Having examined the weaknesses of the other teams in our division, it is time to take a look into the mirror at our own issues heading into the 2010 season. Gene Smith has given Jack Del Rio an overhauled defense for this season, much like he gave Dirk Koetter a revised offense last season through the draft. Make no mistake, Jack Del Rio is a defensive-minded coach, and seeing his team struggle to consistently stop the run or the pass was painful to him. Despite all the defensive additions, this team still has some glaring holes to fill in the Secondary.
The old adage "Defense wins championships", is still true today. Look at the Colts, who despite having one of the most prolific passers and make the playoffs yearly, rarely get past the divisional round. It is difficult to win in January without a hard-nosed defense. Strong defenses, solid rushing attacks, and average QB's who don't turn the ball over are what vaulted teams like the Buccaneers and Ravens into their championship years. David Garrard can be such a "game-manager", as he's shown he doesn't throw many picks.
Before we get ahead of ourselves though, a closer look needs to be taken at the areas where the Jaguars are desperate for a player(s) to step up.
The Offensive Line issues -
Brad Meester showed a steep decline last season, and was an especially sore spot on a below-average line. The rookie Tackles played like rookies and the veterans on the inside didn't play much better. Vince Manuwai obviously was still favoring his surgically repaired knee last season, and did not look like the powerful run-blocking Vinny we had become accustomed to. He'll have to get back to his prior form this season, as we need all the help on the inside of our line as possible. Uche has been a bright spot and has developed nicely for the team over the last few seasons. It is Uche's time to step up to the plate and snag one of the positions as his own. He's been taking some reps at center, but as we all know, the Jaguars' cross-train almost all their linemen, so it isn't necessarily an indicator of things to come.
Last year, our first and second-round picks were both used on tackles that were assessed to be the "bookends" for this team for years to come. Both struggled last season, although to their credit (and O-Line coach Andy Heck), they weren't penalized much, and improved towards the end of the year. Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton both need to step up and make the necessary strides in their second year to keep David's jersey clean. Both players allowed far too many sacks and hurries last season, and we need solid protection on the edges with the quality of DE's in the AFC South.
The Safety conundrum -
Last season, we all learned two things about Reggie Nelson. First, we now know he can play patty-cake, unfortunately, cornerback wasn't shown to be in that same repertoire. Now, the Jaguars are faced with a problem at Safety despite the fact that three years ago a first-round pick was used to supposedly secure the position for the foreseeable future. We now see after three years that Reggie Nelson has regressed. He has shown an inability to make solid tackles, and he gets burned due to his knack for making poor reads. The Jaguars have done everything they can to improve the position over the last season, to little avail.
Sean Considine was flown in from Philly. Gerald Alexander was brought in from Detroit in a trade for Dennis Northcutt. Anthony Smith now resides in Duval after flopping elsewhere. No single player at either the FS or SS positions poses any sort of threat for opposing offenses. In fact, the position actually poses a liability, and unless an unforeseen player emerges, then I imagine our struggles at finding a player will persist at least another year.
Pressuring the QB -
The complete lack of a pass-rush last season necessitated the inclusion of this "special section". Although, the Jaguars appear to have addressed this need in the offseason. I didn't attach a position to it because many of the players acquired improve the pass-rush indirectly. Kirk Morrison is a perfect example of this. By Morrison coming in to play MLB, it will allow Daryl Smith to return to his natural position on the strong side. Daryl showed a propensity for rushing the passer last season, and I imagine he'll get the chance again this year.
Veteran defensive leader and former sack-artist, Reggie Hayward, was re-signed after spending 15 of the 16 games played last year on IR. He broke his leg, and many thought he would never see the lights of Jacksonville Municipal stadium again. However, Gene still has use for the injury-addled Hayward; someone has to teach these rookies how its done!
Larry Hart and Austin Lane were brought in to help at DE while 2008 draft BUST Quentin Groves was sent packing to Oakland. Tyson Alualu and D'Anthony Smith were both selected to provide a pass-rushing DT who can play the 3 technique, and that issue has likely been addressed with those two selections. Aaron Kampman is the other player added to the roster. He had a measly 3.5 sacks last season while playing out of position in the 3-4 defense. He also had an ACL injury during the season and finished on IR. He's said he'll be ready to go, although one can never be certain with injuries, especially leg injuries.
These are the most significant issues I see with the Jaguars heading into the 2010 season. There are other issues, although these represent the most glaring needs as assessed from last season's overall performance.