I haven’t seen something as beautiful as that win in a long time. It’s funny how much opinions can change in a week – all of a sudden we are not the worst team in the league, Garrard is not the worst quarterback to ever play the game, and the Jags just might stay in Jacksonville. This is why it’s best to keep an even keel and simply embrace the thrilling drama that the NFL offers. Let’s all take Del Rio’s advice and savor this one.
Let’s get on with it…
- 1. What I saw yesterday was a return to Jaguars’ football. The league is certainly evolving towards the passing game – we’ve all accepted this as fact by now, but that doesn’t mean that every organization should throw their hands up and turn into a finesse (read: “pattycake”) team. It feels like the Jaguars have been chasing Peyton Manning for years now, overdrafting pass-rushers to run him down and pass catchers to keep up with the Colts’ high-scoring aerial offense. Obviously, that approach hasn’t worked. Jacksonville grew up in the mold of the Pittsburgh Steelers, our then-division rival. Yesterday, the Jags ran hard, hit hard, and played a tough-minded, never-give-in, never-let-up, kinda game. That’s the plan and attitude I want to see every week. I still believe it can win ballgames.
- 2. Believe it or not, the pass defense reminded me of 2006. Yes, the year the Jaguars were 2nd overall in defense. We were around the league average in sacks that year (35, tied for 15th) and had tighter coverage, but we made receivers pay in blood for coming over the middle. I remember watching the Monday Night Football game against Pittsburgh that year with my buddy Chip (Steelers fan), who kept screaming about what thugs the Jaguars’ defensive backs were and accusing them of purposely allowing completions just so they could annihilate the receiver after the catch. I doubt we’re giving up many completions on purpose these days, but we were taxing the Colts’ receivers for every ball that hit their hands yesterday and caused two big redzone turnovers off big hits. We always talk about how important pressure and big hits on the quarterback are because he can’t make plays when there are tears in his eyes and he’s running for his life. Receivers are just as susceptible, if not more so, to making mistakes when they hear footsteps and are anticipating a big hit. New rule: the receivers must go down and the receivers must go down hard!
- 3. Run the ball. Win the battle at the line of scrimmage. Force opponents to be physical. Dictate the pace of play. Protect the football. Capitalize on their mistakes. We’ve said all offseason this is the formula the Jaguars will have to follow to be successful this year. They did this against the Bronchos and Colts. They did not do this against the Chargers and Eagles.
- 4. Dirk Koetter called a beautiful game. It really reminded me of the last time the Jaguars were wearing pink, in our 37-17 blowout of the Titans last October. No player was asked to do anything outside of his ability and plays were called that maximized our players’ talents. Most importantly, we got the run going early and then gave Garrard plays that invited a quick read and a quick pass that not only helped neutralize the rush from Freeney and Mathis, but allowed David to quickly get in rhythm and get some confidence back. The first drive opened up the defense perfectly and set the tone for the game.
- 5. The second year tackles did a commendable job neutralizing the Colts vaunted pass rush. There was some help from offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter on some plays, using Jordan Black as an added blocker and calling quick passing plays to get the ball out before Freeney and Mathis could hit home, but when the tackles were put in one-on-one situations, they handled themselves just as well. These guys are going to be the anchors of our offensive line for a long, long time.
- 6. Gerald Alexander is making the most of his second chance. Gerald posted six tackles, a fumble recovery, a pass defensed, and even got some pressure on Manning from a few safety blitz calls. Though not stellar in pass coverage, he did not blown any assignments and was a sure and forceful tackler. We know that the secondary problems are not going to be fixed anytime this year, so for now, we’ll have to settle for consistent tackling and some occasional turnovers.
- 7. The run defense has to be better. The gaps were there for Joseph Addai and he had an easy time running through them, especially near the goal line.Defensive tackles Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton need to clog the middle and be disruptive in the backfield more than they did against the Colts, but I have all the confidence they will. These guys are still very young, but extremely talented and working hard to hone their craft.
- 8. Derrick Harvey may officially be toast. Against Indy, Harvey played 29 snaps at left defensive end and Jeremy Mincey played 26, including the vast majority of the passing downs. He’s been completely invisible in the pass rush when he should be closing the deal several times a game from Kampman continually flushing quarterbacks to his side. Harvey’s just not getting it done and his proponents have constantly praised his defense against the run, but frankly, he’s not even been impressive in that respect. He’s not getting tackles, he’s not getting stuffs, and he’s not dominating his blockers like he should be. You don’t pay a guy top-10 money to stop the run, much less not stop the run and not get to the quarterback. Gene has likely circled his name in red by now.
- 9. Mike Sims-Walker is not our franchise wide receiver. Corners like Darrell Revis can make anyone disappear, but Mike hasn’t been up against Derrell Revis this year. He has been taken completely out of the game in two out of four weeks and only had three catches for 34 yards in week 3. This simply doesn’t happen to #1 receivers. Sims-Walker has looked tentative over the middle and has dropped too many catches upon contact. He’s got to step it up or Gene will be shopping for his replacement in the draft.
- 10. A win like that should carry the ticket sales momentum through the Texans game. We didn’t start quite as quickly as we had hoped, but we’re tied for second in the division with the Colts and Titans at the quarter post and that will work. We should sell enough tickets for the next two home games (Titans and Texans) to prevent a blackouts. After those, the Browns, Raiders, and Redskins are not as high-profile opponents and may need the Jaguars’ to be in the playoff picture to get that added boost. It’s up to you, Jags – bring it on home.
- Andrew Hofheimer