Sept. 16, 2012; Jacksonville FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew (32) reacts on the bench late in the fourth quarter of their game against the Houston Texans at EverBank Field. The Texans won 27-7. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-US PRESSWIRE

There's Still Hope For Jacksonville

Last week there was a post on FOX Sports about how the Jags don’t need to panic…yet.  I agree with the article, and unlike the inevitable hailstorm of panic that will permeate the fans and national media, it still isn’t time to panic.  The Jags were beat down by a division rival but they can still progress and find some positives.

As much as people don’t like to focus on it, the Jaguars are playing hurt.  Starting linebacker Clint Session is still on the PUP list and it’s looking more and more like his concussions may finally finish his career.  His counterpart, Daryl Smith, has not played in the first two contests and is the heart and soul of the defense.  In total the Jags had five starters out for the game.

  • LB Clint Session (PUP list)
  • LB Daryl Smith
  • CB Derek Cox
  • RT Cameron Bradfield
  • LG Eben Britton

The Jags desperately need Cox back to be more competitive on defense.  Source: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

Unfortunately, this team just isn’t deep enough to recover from those losses.  William Middleton is routinely abused replacing Cox, Guy Whimper is a turnstile at right tackle, and the Jags started a street hire in place of Britton at left guard.  Kyle Bosworth and Russell Allen have been coach favorites for depth at linebacker and were taken advantage of at every opportunity by the Vikings and the Texans.

It isn’t just the depth that’s bad either, it’s also that the depth is hurt.  The Jags are terribly thin at defensive end, so much so that the coaches have planned at giving some defensive tackles looks on the outside.  Further, the running game has a major drop-off (you could argue it isn’t the same even with the starter) behind Maurice Jones-Drew.  Also out against the Texans were:

  • DE Austen Lane
  • DE George Selvie
  • RB Rashad Jennings

Jennings was the starting running back heading into the season and is the best backup MJD has had since he was splitting carries with Fred Taylor (he had more touches than Taylor in one season).  Selvie and Lane take much needed pressure off starters Jeremy Mincey and Andre Branch by providing reliable legs in rotation; without them there is only Aaron Morgan to step in.

If/when these players come back, the game becomes much different.  If Daryl Smith is playing, the Vikings can’t march down the field for two late field goals.  With a consistent pass rush from fresh defensive ends, Matt Schaub can’t simply play pitch-and-catch with his receivers.  With a healthy Derek Cox, the offense has their best receiver blocked off.  It’s tough to admit, but right now this team isn’t what it should be.

I’m still confident that Gabbert is on the rise and will have more progression than anticipated, but he needs his offensive line back.  There is hope for the defense to make this team competitive again.  The sooner the defense gets healthy, the better.  Even with the O-line back this offense needs a top-ten defense.  The O-line is the key for success for Gabbert and MJD, and Gabbert and MJD give the team enough time of possession for the defense to prepare for the next series; without the O-line it’s tough to gain that time of possession.  Until the team gets healthy, that will be difficult to achieve.  Fortunately the starters will be back at some point.  For now though it is important to know that there is hope coming and we just need to hunker down and weather the storm.

- Luke N. Sims

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