STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
The 2009 Jaguars bored and disappointed their remaining fans, and the organization did little in the way of making '10 look any different. The mediocre David Garrard is still the team's quarterback, the Jags still don't have enough proven wideout depth, and the defense still can't rush the passer. Rinse, repeat. Meanwhile, the threat of a Los Angeles move is looming, and head coach Jack Del Rio's perpetual hot seat just continues to get hotter.
Fantasy owners look to Jacksonville for one solitary reason: Maurice Jones-Drew. In his first season as the team's primary running back, MJD had a great year. With 16 touchdowns and 1,765 total yards in 2009, Jones-Drew may have helped you win your fantasy league and certainly he lived up to his first-round fantasy pick value. Even more amazingly, Jones-Drew racked up these numbers with two rookie offensive tackles, who should only get better this season. Draft him early and count on production.
Past Jones-Drew, however, the Jags had a miserable 2009. Ranking 18th in offense and 23rd in defense, Jacksonville was especially poor in the passing game, on both sides of the ball. Garrard threw for 210 yards per game, and is facing heat from backup Luke McCown in the offseason. Receiver Mike Sims-Walker had a strong first half but was virtually invisible late in the season, andis a perpetual injury risk. Few others stepped up at the receiver position, and Torry Holt was a major disappointment in his one-year stint with the team. Meanwhile, the Jags were downright putrid defending the pass,sacking opposing quarterbacks a league-low 14 times and giving up 236 yards per game in the air.
The team focused on defense in the offseason, signing pass rusher Aaron Kampman and drafting two defensive tackles. The catch, however, is that Kampman may miss part of the season recovering from an ACL tear, and the team's top defensive tackle pick, Tyson Alualu, was panned as a poor value pick at the No. 10 draft slot. The Jags also traded for Raiders linebacker Kirk Morrison, who may immediately become the team's best defensive player.
To succeed in 2010, the Jags will have to have a number of lucky breaks fall their way. Garrard will have to save his job and play like he did three years ago, receivers will have to step up, Kampman will have to start racking up sacks, and the young linemen will have to start playing beyond their age. Unless those things happen, Jacksonville could enter 2011 with a new coach, new quarterback and with the same old lack of fan support.
Round, Overall, Player
1. (10) Tyson Alualu, DT, California-May have been a reach, but will immediately step in and anchor D-line.
5. (153) Austen Lane, DE, Murray State-Another small-school pass rusher to fill the
Jags’ biggest need.
6. (180) Deji Karim, RB, Southern Illinois-Huge producer in college is in the mix to
6. (203) Scotty McGee, CB, James Madison-Drafted solely as a punt returner.
Aaron Kampman, DE (Packers) If healthy, Kampman could provide the Jags with a much-needed pass rush. If not, he could be a huge bust.
Kirk Morrison, LB (Raiders) A tackle machine in Oakland, he’ll step right in as a starter.
Kassim Osgood, WR (Chargers) Special teams ace could also see time at receiver.
John Henderson, DT (FA) Drafting of two DTs made “Big John” expendable.
Torry Holt, WR (Patriots) Fell far below expectations in Jacksonville. Had zero touchdowns last year.
Clint Ingram, LB (Saints) Replaced by Morrison after disappointing year.
IS GARRARD SALVAGEABLE?
Over the last two years, David Garrard has been the definition of a middle of the road quarterback. He's thrown for 30 touchdowns, 23 interceptions and an average of 226 passing yards per game. Not awful, but certainly not spectacular, and definitely not enough to push the Jags to another level in a tough division or spur ticket sales. Further compounding the problem is the fact that Garrard has looked awful in preseason minicamps, while backup Luke McCown has thrown extremely well. Remember, Garrard got his starter's job due to a surprise quarterback switch prior to the season, so it's not past head coach Jack Del Rio to make the move. If the Jags start to lose games, Del Rio, with his job on the hot seat, may replace Garrard with McCown.
NEVER CATCHING ON
Ever since the retirement of Jimmy Smith, the Jags' receiving corps has been their Achilles' heel. This year should be no exception. Mike Sims-Walker seemed to emerge as something of a star last season, but he faltered miserably down the stretch, with only 175 total yards and one touchdown in his last six games. With a history of knee injuries, Sims-Walker's durability is a major concern. No. 2 wideout Mike Thomas showed some potential at the end of the season, with 13 receptions in his final two games. Troy Williamson, Kassim Osgood, Jarrett Dillard, Tiquan Underwood and Nate Hughes will battle for the few remaining receptions.
KEEPING THE MJD TRAIN A-ROLLING
Maurice Jones-Drew had 312 of the team's 357 running back carries last year, a stunning 87 percent. Not surprisingly, MJD wore down a bit last season, his first as the primary tailback. Jones-Drew had only one 100-yard rushing game after Week 10, and only had three touchdowns during that span. Garrard absorbs a few carries per game, but to keep Jones-Drew at full speed all season, Rashad Jennings or rookie Deji Karim will have to emerge as a viable backup.
IS KAMPMAN THE ANSWER?
The Jags had a team total of 14 sacks last year, by far the worst in the NFL. Their failure to rush the passer led to the sixth-worst pass defense in the league, including 28 touchdowns allowed. Opponents completed a stunning 68 percent of their passes against Jacksonville. Enter Kampman. The former Packer has topped nine sacks in three of the last four years, including 15.5 in 2006. However, Kampman suffered a torn left ACL in November, so he may not even be at full speed until midseason. If Kampman can prove healthy, the Jags defense could become respectable. If not, it could be another long season.
Rising: Zach Miller flashed big-play potential as a backup last year. Marcedes Lewis, meanwhile, has been a disappointment throughout his career, so don’t be surprised if Miller takes over the
Declining: Mike Sims-Walker slowed down in the second half of last season and has a history of injury trouble.
Supersleeper: Kassim Osgood never got much of a chance to catch balls in San Diego, but with less depth in Jacksonville he could see passes thrown his way.
Aaron Kampman, DE If healthy, he could rack up sacks, something rarely seen in Jacksonville.
Derek Cox, CB Grabbed four interceptions as a rookie. How many can he pick in his second year?
RotoWire Rank: 32