Following the Jaguars 2009 season, coach Jack Del Rio and several players made it publicly known what the goal was for 2010, playoffs or bust. On the surface, it does certainly seem like a legitimate goal. Heading into December the team was still in the driver's seat for a Wild Card Spot. However, an 0-4 December ruined any chance of a return to the postseason for the Boys in Teal.
The expectations of a playoff team seem to be well founded. A year of seasoning for the rookie class that was so vital to 2009's successes, a pass rush that has no where to go but up, and a solidifed WR corps should all help the Jaguars in 2010. However, looking at how the Jaguars built up that pre-December 7-5 record, it is interesting to see how they'll do it vs this year's schedule.
Three of the Jaguars seven victories came against teams that picked in the Top Ten of the draft, St.Louis, Buffalo, and Kansas City. Never mind they had to beat St.Louis in overtime, Buffalo on a last minute TD, and had to keep Kansas City from performing a miracle comeback. Their victory over Tennessee was while the Titans were in free fall. Their two victories over the Texans can only be best explained by the fact the Jaguars were sorely over due for some of the Texans mojo for losing games to go the Jag's way.
In fact, the Jaguars only had one victory over a playoff team in all of 2009, vs the New York Jets in Week 9.
In short, the team got to seven wins by feasting on cupcakes or having lady luck on their side.
Last year's team was a bad team. You don't blow up a roster and fill it with rookies and patch free agents and not have that happen. I firmly believe last year's team would have been a 4-12 team had they have gone up against this year's schedule. Now, I'm sure everyone is saying, well that was then and this is now. True. So should this team fair against this year's schedule?
Looking at it from the unfocused lens of OTAs and preseason hype, the Jaguars will play eight games vs teams that are either postseason locks or will be in the hunt. Even games that should be looked as "W"s on the schedules have me looking on with a hint of pessimism (Week 7's trip to Arrowhead).
I fully expect Tyson Alualu and Aaron Kampman to struggle during the early part of the season for different reasons. Alualu still has to get used to the speed and physicality of the NFL, while Kampman will still need some time to get his feet steadied and to trust his knee. How is that going to affect the daunting four game opening stretch the Jaguars have?
David Garrard is going to be David Garrard. He'll look great one game, look terrible in another, and mostly just look average.
The wide receiving corps will certainly be improved, while Mike Sims-Walker is going to look to show everyone he can be a legitimate #1 target. Mike Thomas looked great during Mini-Camp, so he could turn into the Jaguars Wes Welker this season.
The offensive line should be where the most improvement comes from. Eugene Monroe has the make up to become an All-Pro LT, and he started to show it in the latter parts of 2009. The addition of Justin Smiley should allow the much needed shake up in the interior of the offensive line, and will allow Garrard the time he supposedly needs.
The secondary is still going to be an issue, regardless of the Rashean situation. The lack of movement at the safety position is going to be an issue going forward, though I'm glad the franchise didn't try to overpay for Atogwe.
In all, while this year's team is going to be improved, it may have run into the wrong schedule for everyone to be expecting a playoff push. It's very likely this team will once again be in the 7-9/9-7 range. If they are, I could expect that all things considered.