1. I think it’s time we stopped paying attention to what the national media has to say about the Jaguars. I’m going to be completely honest with you, my readers. It’s time to circle the wagons. That’s a phrase that’s thrown around often in NFL commentary, so let’s finally figure out what it means.
Circle the Wagons 1. Look for protection, get defensive, get ready for an attack; from the old west where the pioneers would circle their wagons for protection from the Indians.
This season is a big fat question mark right now and Blaine Gabbert (as you’ve probably heard by now) is the answer. If he develops quickly and begins to fulfill his potential, the Jaguars will be good and competitive. If he continues to have growing pains, then we’ll have another early draft pick and go into next year hopeful that it’s finally our year. I’m not going to deny that having to wait until next year yet again plain sucks – but that might just be the way it is. If you watched the game yesterday (and didn’t just look at the box score), you know that Gabbert showed immense potential. The same things we wrote about in last week’s BOOK IT were just as true this week. The kid throws an absolutely beautiful spiral and he looked composed and able to lead our offense. The question is how long until he can put together four consistent quarters? The rest of the team is there to support a good quarterback, Blaine has just got to step up to that level and that may (understandably) take time and that doesn’t mean he sucks. It means he’s young and these things don’t happen overnight. But back to the media stuff – welcome to the bottom shelf of the national perception, folks. Don’t expect to hear the Jaguars mentioned on ESPN and if you do, expect the worse. Expect ignorance. Expect disdain. Expect the same old, looking-down-their-nose snobbery towards the Jaguars and Jacksonville that we’ve always heard. So what should you do in response to their madness? Circle the wagons. It’s us versus the world. We know what our team is – it’s young and still growing and unfortunately, still not good just yet because our passing offense isn’t good just yet. Maybe Blaine will grow up quick and we’ll enter the playoff mix late in the season and we can look forward to everyone calling us the Cinderella story. Maybe we end up 1-15. I’m going to love this team the same either way. I’m circling the wagons.
2. Pass rush, bad. Pass coverage, good. For as much flak as we give the defensive backs, they sure held their own against New Orleans. Their offense was practically all RB/scatback Darren Sproles and TE Jimmy Graham, who is a bonafide freak at 6′ 6″, 260 and running a 4.5 second 40 yard dash. The Jaguars have not fixed their TE-covering woes and Brees repeatedly gashed the Jaguars on short routes, intermediate routes, and deep down the seam to Graham. The Jaguars played with their coverage mostly mid-to-deep, which left Sproles frequently open in the flats and he was able to make the most of these plays (seriously, this guy might be the fastest and shiftiest player in the NFL when it actually comes to field speed – ridiculous). The defense would have benefited immensely from some pass rush and don’t let the 3 sacks in the box score fool you – Drew Brees had enough time in the pocket yesterday to count all of the illegitimate babies in the 9th Ward. This defensive line is too talented to not start putting the pressure on quarterbacks and when they do finishing the play – if I see one more DE run right past the passer or lose his balance and fall at the feet of the opposing QB only to have him give the ball an extra pat and throw it 30 yards downfield, I’m going to puke.
3. The personnel management is starting to bug me and raising serious questions about the coaching staff. It’s like we’ve all come to learn – this league is about players, not plays. That means calling plays that cater to the strengths of your players and not forcing them to run the schemes and plays the coaches prefer. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is a 3-4, but the Jaguars run the 4-3 because they have the players for a 4-3 – this is smart personnel management. Dirk Koetter is thought of as a mastermind of the aerial game, but he’s called a rushing-centric offensive attack for the past few years because he’s had average passers and receivers to work with and an exceptional RB in Maurice Jones-Drew – this is smart personnel management. So WHY is Russ Purnell not adapting his schemes to his players? Matt Turk is the most poignant example of this – Turk said it matter-of-factly, but he had a point; for the past 11 years of his career, he’s been a “hang-time punter”, which means he puts it as high in the air as he can and the coverage team gets under the ball and stops the runner before they can advance. But Purnell is insisting that Turk do directional punting, despite Turk proving time and again to us that he is a very poor directional punter. WHY IS THIS HAPPENING? You don’t pound Darren Sproles between the tackles play after play thinking that eventually he’ll learn to run like Eddie George. You don’t run the speed option with Brett Favre. You don’t stand Vince Wilfork up at OLB and ask him to speedrush from the edge. So why is Turk being asked to do what he’s weakest at rather than what he’s strongest at? And sadly, it doesn’t stop with Turk – there are all kinds of questions about the personnel management right now. Why is Deji Karim running draws on 3rd and long or 4th and long? Why isn’t Marcedes Lewis getting more targets in the deep seam? Why isn’t Zach Miller getting the ball in space more so he can make plays after the catch? Why does Maurice Jones-Drew either get 10 touches or 50 touches in a game and no where in between? Why do we call the WR bubble screen on every play? There’s a lot to be frustrated about with how the players are used right now.
But hey, congrats on another Blackout + 10,000 ticket sales games, Jags fans. Let’s keep that whale alive.
– Andrew Hofheimer