The Jacksonville Jaguars came away from Tampa Bay with their first victory of the pre-season. The statistic of wins and losses at this point however, doesn't really matter.
Generally what matters in a pre-season game isn't the final score or even really the end-game statistics, what matters is specific situations. In the third pre-season game though, it's supposed to be the closest to a real football game. It's supposed to be the barometer for where your football team is, as game planning actually occurs and the starters play the majority of the football game.
"This offense is definitely ready to start the season; this team is ready to start the season. Like I said, we got things that we could still smooth out, fix here and there, but I think every team out there has that situation, but we’re still ready to roll," quarterback David Garrard said following the football game.
One of the things the Jaguars need to smooth out is their ineffectiveness in the redzone, which was made glaring last night in Tampa.Statistically David Garrard had a very good night, completing 24 of 31 passes for 211 yards and an interception.
The interception David Garrard did throw, sums up what could be this football teams woes going into the regular season. The interception came on a play action pass to fullback Greg Jones in which Bucs linebacker Barrett Ruud simply just watched David Garrard stare down his primary target, and stepped in front of the pass to run it back 80 yards. That interception setup Tampa Bay's only touchdown on the exact same play the Jaguars ran, but it resulted in a touchdown and not an interception.
On the play, Garrard didn't really sell the play action fake and Ruud sniffed the play out from the start. Ruud just watched where Garrard was looking and he telegraphed who he was throwing to.
"When you get into the red zone you don’t want to throw interceptions and I did. You throw it so either Greg Jones gets it or nobody does," Garrard said after the game.
"You’d like to get seven. The positive is we did move it," said Jack Del Rio when asked about the interception. "It’s not that one," Del Rio said when asked what should have been done. "It’s anything but that one. The guy in the first row with the beer in his hand? Try to knock the beer out of his hand."
For most of the night, the Jaguars offense was able to move up and down the field virtually at will. The problem began when the offense would get inside the 20 and in the redzone. It seemed as if the Jaguars did a lot of dinking and dunking taking short chunks of yardage at a time to move down the field. Garrard did hit Marcedes Lewis on a long play the start off the day, but after that nearly everything else was a checkdown or dump off to pick up yardage and move down. There's nothing wrong with that, unless of course once you get to the redzone and the field is shrunk, you can't score.
This was the Jaguars problem and will potentially be a problem going forward in the season. It was a big area of concern last season, even with Maurice Jones-Drew, who didn't play against the Bucs. The Jaguars starting offense was 0-for-4 in the redzone on Saturday, including it's final series that was against the Bucs number twos. That final drive ended on a poorly thrown pass by Garrard that missed an open Mike Thomas in the endzone. Prior to that pass, Garrard nearly threw another interception in the redzone on consecutive plays. One was a pass to tight end Zach Miller that had linebacker Geno Hayes with coverage underneath and a safety over the top. In order to complete the pass, the ball needed to be thrown high to make it over the underneath coverage, but the pass bounced off Hayes hands. The very next pass was broken up and nearly intercepted again by linebacker Barrett Ruud.
The Jaguars first team offense left the game scoring only 9 points, trailing Tampa Bay's starters 13-9. Garrard ended the night 4 of 9 for 26 yards and an interception in the redzone. The big problem was that all five of Garrard's incompletions were very questionable throws. One pass was an over the shoulder throw to Mike Thomas that was short and batted away by back up safety Cody Grimm. One was the complete misfire to Mike Thomas that missed him to the left by a good 6-7 yards. One was an interception and the final two were near interceptions.
Dinking and dunking down the football field is great, if you can convert in the redzone. When the field shrinks and the defenders are trapped in that 30 yard area however, it's a lot more difficult to clear things out and just dump it off for a chunk of yardage.
I'm not going to say the Jaguars will be as bad as they were in the redzone last season, where David Garrard led the NFL in turnovers, but if he feels this offense is ready to start the season... I'm a little concerned. David Garrard's achilles heel in his career has always been consistency, and it reared it's ugly head again on Saturday.