The second pre season game is in the (football) history books. The 2 teams fought with each other and the elements (Miami had 2 very wet games so far; both were played in Florida…). I wrote in the preview article that we will get a quite nice indicator about what can we expect in the regular season. Well; I still can’t figure out the Jaguars. I see more and more pieces of the big puzzle but I didn’t see the final picture yet. Let me explain what I’m thinking about:
I think this offense will be the driving force that we expected in 2009. I think the pass protection is improving, the Jaguars allowed 1 sack by NT Randy Starks. This is nice, even if we count that play, where Charles Grant took out David Garrard. Although I remind everyone; that Mike Nolan; the defensive coordinator of the Dolphins probably left his blitzing schemes at home.
I’m not concerned about the running game- The Jaguars can run the ball if they want. Don’t waste Maurice health and energy. And the other backs? Well I think we can count on them to take a little pressure away from Drew. Speaking of RBs; Rashad Jennings and Deji Karim could be a major factor this year. Jennings can catch the ball; run the ball and even can block a punt as he did yesterday. And Karim? Well his capability to return kicks will boost this offense. I expect that we will see very good starting field positions against teams who are average or worse in ST coverage. Ross Prunell has an all star cast- Osgood; Owens; Middleton; Allen; Karim; McGee (that fumble was a warning; Scotty!) Scobee and maybe Podlesh. If there is an area I’m confident about the ’10 Jaguars; it is the ST unit.
Now let’s take a look at the D-line. Well the good news is Aaron Kampman arrived and looks like he is for real. I think he has plenty of fuel left in the tank; to be again the nightmare of tackles and QBs as he was in Green Bay. What about Tyson? Well; if your 1st play in the NFL is a sack that is a good introduction. The sad thing that was the only moment he had in his 1st game. But okay, if we count that he returned to practice on Thursday; not bad (but not good either!). For him; Tampa Bay will be a very important game. As well as the other starting caliber ends. Derrick Harvey was double teamed now and then but he once again was not so effective. After a very good training camp start is he starting to slide back to his ’08-09 form? And where was Larry Hart in this game? Well so far he has not lived up anywhere near the hype we heard about him all off season long. Austen Lane saw some action; and he showed signs that Joe Cullen can count on him when he needs to.
But the biggest disappointment is –again- the pass defense. Rashean Mathis had a hip injury; and Jack and he didn’t risk an even bigger injury (good call!). But without him; this secondary is looking lost. Derek Cox is struggling (Jeff Lageman and Vic Ketchman spoke about a possible injury which is an obstacle for him; but on the bright note; he didn’t miss any game time or practice with it. But sadly didn’t looked good either. And Don Carey….The more we see him, the more looks like stealing him was a mistake.
And one more thing: Covering the TEs is a still unsolved –huge- problem. For me this is a huge –and sadly over and over appearing- problem. I personally think Anthony Fassano is a good player, but he is not even close to those the Jaguars will face in the regular season. Just to name a few: Antonio Gates (Week 2); Brent Celek (Week 3); Dallas Clark (Week 6); Jason Witten (Week 8). And this is just the first half of the season and the bigger names. Fassano produced 2 TDs, one of that was a 55 yard long big play. Yeah I know how important Brandon Marshall was for that play, but that is another sign that the tight end coverage is terrible and the Jaguars have still no answer to this challenge.
The maybe most positive news of the game –along with the Jaguars having no new injury; and the missing 2-3 players (Britton; Zach Miller, John Estes; Smiley; and Mathis) are scheduled to return for next week – is David Garrard and the passing game. Although his performance was far from perfect; he showed once again; that he is this team’s Nr. 1 option at QB. The 10-play, 78-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter is something every Jaguars fan wants to see and wants to see it as often as possible in the regular season. I think finally he has the protection and the receivers (the backs were always there) to make the offense to this team’s calling card. Although his game was not flawless –see Terry’s footage about the overthrown pass to the wide open Maurice Drew- ; it can be enough for winning a good portion of games from the schedule- IF he can play like that 4 quarters long.
I think the Jaguars are a few steps closer to be “ready” for the opening game. I think we can say that was progress compared to the Philadelphia game. Now this process must continue next week as well. Tampa Bay is on the horizon.