1. It turns out that the long-term gains from the Oakland game had some short-term consequences. Though the Jaguars benefited from a hard-fought win, it became apparent against the Colts that the Raiders game may have drained the team mentally and physically. The players were certainly excited and focused for the game in Indy, but it was obvious by the way the Colts manhandled the Jags on both lines that our team was out of character. When the Colts run for that much and the Jags run for that little, there is a piece of the story missing from the box score.
2. The Jags’ postseason hopes are out of their hands – but there’s nothing to be mad about. This has been a miraculous season; no matter how hopeful fans go in to the beginning of each season, you really couldn’t have asked for more. We’ve seen our young players blossom into solid, dominant players that look to be long-term fixtures of the team. We’ve seen some incredible finishes to some incredible wins. And our team will remain relevant and exciting to watch throughout the entire 17 weeks of the regular season. I don’t think many people could have predicted the growth and enjoyment this season would offer and the hope we will have going into 2011. This is not a resignation, but appreciation for what this team has accomplished and overcome. The playoffs are still a definite possibility, but even if we do fall just short, there isn’t much to be upset about – the game in Indy had all of the tension and excitement of a playoff game and even in defeat, it was enjoyable to witness the Jags in a meaningful battle with an arch rival.
3. The safety position must be addressed adequately in the offseason. There tends to be less importance on safeties because of the premium put on good cover cornerbacks these days. But this season has proven that you can’t just stick anyone back there – the Jags have been burned by poor positioning and poor tackling at the position, which has led to a lot of big gains and missed plays. I think Courtney Greene has shown enough to at least head into training camp on top of the depth chart at strong safety. Free safety needs to be addressed, preferably in the draft, and not just with a throwaway late-round pick (though, admittedly few of Gene’s picks have been throwaways, even late ones). But with the emphasis on passing in the league and in our division, we need a player who will turn the free safety position into a net positive, not only minimizing mistakes but making his half of the field a place quarterbacks do not want to throw, either because their pass might get intercepted or their receiver might get Austin Collied.
4. The big guys who have been the dominant force of our team this season barely showed on Sunday. Terrance Knighton, Tyson Alualu, Vince Manuwai, and Greg Jones had sub-standard games. Potroast and Tyson were non-factors, absent from the backfield and pushed around most of the game. The run blocking did not possess the physicality and reliable momentum that had propelled the Jaguars in our last several games. This game made it clear that it’s not necessarily our running game that’s become the identity of the offense, but the maulers blocking for Jones-Drew and Jennings who set the tone.
5. I still like our chances. The same way the brutality of the Oakland game wore us out, Indy will be worn out going into their game this week. They had to play four quarters of football that were the exact opposite of how they like to play and they suffered many injuries throughout the game, including Peyton’s security blanket Austin Collie, who is likely done for at least the rest of the regular season. And guess who they’re playing and where? Oakland. In the BLACK HOLE. The Raiders match up well against Indy and if the Jaguars take care of business, we could have our one game lead back by the close of business on Sunday. The rest of the schedule is manageable, as Washington and Houston are two of the most dysfunctional teams in the league right now. This is still the new Jaguars and I expect them to finish strong. We just need a little luck and Peyton to play like he’s in the Super Bowl. I stand by my prediction that the Jaguars will be AFC South champs.
Merry Christmas to all of our readers and GO JAGS!
– Andrew Hofheimer