Monday, August 22, 2011

NFL 32 in 32: Jacksonville Jaguars

Since their last playoff appearance in 2007, the Jaguars have gone through a complete failure of a season in 2008, and two years of rebuilding in the last two. But in both of those, they have been within striking distance of a playoff trip, until a late season swoon has done them in. They hope 2011 will be different, but will it?

What's New: Plenty, and most of the change is on the defensive side of the ball. Last year's defense was pretty horrendous, and especially the secondary, in which the Jags allowed 250 passing yards a game. They addressed these problems with the addition of S Dawan Landry from Baltimore and nickel corner Drew Coleman from the New York Jets. While this may not totally fix the secondary issues, these additions will certainly help to fix many issues. The linebacking corps got the most aggressive change when Paul Posluszny and Clint Session came over from Buffalo and Indianapolis respectively. This group was a major problem last year, and these new players will certainly help fix them in both pass coverage, run defense, and with big hitting. They also added DE Matt Roth from Cleveland for extra help with the pass rush. The major addition many people are talking about was the drafting of QB Blaine Gabbert from Missouri, and there is a question as to who will start this season, him or incumbent David Garrard.

Biggest Strength: The Jaguars have one of the league's best rushing attacks, and they have the running backs to boot. Maurice Jones-Drew can do almost anything, run, block, or catch passes, and is one of the most dynamic running backs in the game today. His touches may be reduced this year in order to keep him healthy, and Rashad Jennings and Deji Karim should get more touches. They also have a burgeoning TE in Marcedes Lewis, who lead the Jags in almost every receiving category. On defense, the Jags have a much improved linebacking corps and secondary as talked about above, and the defensive line is also underrated with guys like Aaron Kampman and Tyson Alualu, plus other contributors who have flashed in training camp.

Biggest Weakness: The offensive line has had some issues in camp, mostly due to injuries and the lack of OTA's, but it may still be an issue at the start of the season. Whoever is starting at QB needs to have good protection, and this offensive line group may have some troubles consistently providing it. The group of wideouts isn't amazing, but has some good players in Mike Thomas, Jason Hill, and rookie Cecil Shorts, however the overall group isn't very impressive. The linebacking corps and secondary both lack depth, and that could be a problem, however anything will be better than last year's group; some of the starters are now 3rd teamers this year.

Outlook: This team has the possibility to be better than many people expect, because they are a better team than they were in the last 2 seasons, while they have been ever-so-close to the playoffs. Because they will be better, they have a chance to win a wide-open division this year with vulnerable teams in the Colts and Titans, and a team that is unproven in Houston. If they are better than .500, don't be surprised.

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