First and foremost, I apologize for my silence in the last couple of days. I am battling a couple of issues right now, but I’m back to share my opinion about the Jaguars, who unfortunately just suffered a gigantic blow after losing defensive MVP and team leader Aaron Kampman on Friday. I want to send my best wishes to Aaron. I also hope Greg Jones is right about Aaron and he will be fortunate enough to heal quickly from his second torn ACL. This loss will undoubtedly make Jack Del Rio’s life much more difficult, as improving the defense is key to keeping the Jaguars competitive in the second half of the season (and keeping his job!). Let’s examine what has changed now that Kampman will no longer be able to contribute on the field in 2010.
The Impact of Losing Aaron Kampman
- Impact #1: Kampman’s injury will put another gigantic monkey on David Garrard’s back, because the Jaguars success now completely rests with the offense. Right now, Dirk Koetter’s offense (when it actually shows up) is the Jaguars’ only calling card. There are a few impact players on defense (Knighton, Alualu…..hmmm, who else now that Aaron’s gone?), but the unit itself is obviously a long way from being a strength. I advise everyone to prepare yourself to see each remaining opponent score at least 20-25 points, maybe even 30 points (unless they have a really bad day on offense). What this means is that Garrard and his weapons must outscore every remaining opponent, because quite frankly, they can’t expect the defense to give them much help in the remaining 8 games. Other than the Texans, the Jags will not be facing any lightweight defenses – in fact, some of these squads are pretty stout. In 2009, we learned that the offense is capable of carrying this team. In 2010, they will need to do that again…or it will be an ugly, ugly second half for the Jaguars.
- Impact # 2: Fans will get to see what this team has at defensive end other than Kampman and what a performance Joe Cullen has done with coaching up the young guys! Derrick Harvey is a very lucky man – on other teams, he might never have been given the chance to hit the field again after being benched in Week 8. Since then, Jeremy Mincey (the guy who earned Harvey’s spot) broke his arm. Now Kampman is gone. This is IT for Harvey – his very last chance to prove that he can make an impact rushing the passer. I’m not talking about double digit sacks, but I want to see him reach Kampman’s sack total (4) by the end of the year. If he can’t manage that, Gene must find another not-so-wise GM for a trade. Jeremy Mincey also gets a shot to prove he is a player who can be a legit starter in this league. However, I’m pretty concerned about his arm - opposing teams will likely run right at him until his broken bone is healed (by the way, how will he sack the QB with a broken arm?). And here’s a scary remainder - Texans’ shooting-star RB Arian Foster loves to run toward the DEs…
And of course we will see if GM Gene had Larry Hart and Austen Lane scouted correctly. I can easily see them making a real push to take the starting DE jobs from Mincey and Harvey. If Harvey is not generating enough pressure in the next 1-2 games, Austen Lane will likely take over his starting job. And don’t forget about Aaron Morgan waiting in the wings as well.
This situation will be a great barometer to see what the Jaguars have in Joe Cullen. He has gotten amazing help from Kampman on and off the field. Now that Aaron is done for the year, it’s up to Cullen to figure out how to keep his unit together. I loved Jaguars’ beat writer Tania Ganguli’s line about Cullen’s reaction to Aaron’s injury - he told the defensive line this morning that Kampman showed them the way, but now it was up to them!
I have no illusions that the sack total in the last 8 games will match the production in the first half of the season. But if the Jaguars record seven or more sacks in the second half, it will be a promising sign for the future. However, if that number is below seven (equalling last year’s second-half total, when this team was dead last in sacks) that will raise a couple of questions for Joe and Gene.
Go to the next page for the preview of this weekend’s game against the Texans…