If you believe the talk of the town (that is Shahid Khan, Gene Smith, and Mike Mularkey) then the Jags fully expect to get to the playoffs this year.
Unlike other teams that are in “rebuilding mode” the Jags believe that they have a squad that can put together a winning season. And not just a winning season, a season that will bring the Jaguars back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Why shouldn’t we believe them?
The Jags are actually looking pretty solid. In 2010 the team was a win away from securing the division title. Just like numerous seasons before the Jaguars went into a Del Rio slide to finish the season and never rebounded in 2011. In fact, it looked like we had hit rock bottom. The offense was stagnant, the quarterback looked lost, the running back had to get past eight or nine players to gain a yard, and the team was struggling to find a successful identity to get behind. But despite all of this, Maurice Jones-Drew claimed the rushing title, the defense was 6th in the league, and our quarterback slowly started to develop.
If Gabbert comes out this year and is even remotely adequate (meaning he can pass the ball 0-10 yards within three feet of a receiver in any direction) then I think the Jags have a real shot. I think Gabbert is better than Colt McCoy, Christian Ponder, Carson Palmer (currently), Ryan Tannehill, Chad Henne, T.J. Yates, even Sam Bradford (seriously his numbers aren’t that impressive). He’s only got a few more to surpass to be in the top 50% of quarterbacks. He can lead an offense and it appears that the team is behind him.
Now he just needs to put the pieces together.
Gabbert did look scared while in the pocket. He quickly tucked the football and ran a lot of the time, he suffered from phantom pressure, and he didn’t always let the routes fully develop. But I think a lot of that will be behind him in 2012.
That said, a quarterback does a not make a team.
MJD will be returning, pass catching targets Laurent Robinson and Justin Blackmon have been added in the offseason, the defense is looking mean (really, this group is getting scary), and, barring any wacky injuries, the special teams should perform quite well (3rd round punter included).
Maybe the Jags’ front office just has a little bit of subtle bravado that is just now starting to come out or maybe the team is really quite excellent. As much as I like Gene Smith, I just can’t see him strutting around like Rex Ryan or quietly grinning in some self-important way as he slowly orchestrates a team like some maniacal villain; this team may actually become the real deal in 2012.
I don’t care what Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Aaron Rodgers have to say. Defense still wins championships.
And this year, they have help from the offense.
- Luke N. Sims