The season isn’t over for the young Jacksonville Jaguars. It’s only week 6 and there are many games to go. Many lessons to be learned. Many mistakes to be made, and more than likely many, many more blowout losses. It’s time to refocus our attention. This brand new season with a new GM, and head coach was never about wins and losses.
Now, let me rephrase this…wins are the goal. Are they the immediate goal? Of course they are, but it is one goal among many. Just because the Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t winning right now doesn’t mean that they aren’t making progress. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t getting any better.
I want to take today and kind of take a step back and take a look at the big picture. The Jaguars are doing the best they can to build a team the right way. They are doing the best they can to be competitive. They are doing the best they can to go about it in a smart, productive way that won’t cripple the team down the road.
Wins are the immediate goal for any team, but what about the long term goals? I can tell you right now, the Jaguars are thinking about the long term. It’s time we as fans begin to understand this.
Over the last week the Jaguars became the proud new owners of Baltimore’s 4th and 5th round picks via a trade that sent Eugene Monroe packing. This only adds to Caldwell’s mantra of building through the draft. This is year one in a 4-5 year process. The future isn’t now.
The rebuilding phase simply began back in January when Caldwell was hired. All year long the roster has been steadily purged. Many young rookies and free agents were added. By week one there were 26 new players on the 53 man roster.
Every week players are waived or picked up on waivers (poor Jeremy Ebert) as the front office continues to search for personnel that works. There’s been growing pains. More often than not, it’s been somewhat painful to watch, but these are the things that must happen and nine times out of ten they take time. The future is not now. Not yet.
Understanding that the future hasn’t yet arrived is crucial in understanding what’s going on with the Jaguars. Yes, there have been some good, young players with promise added, but this is only the beginning as Caldwell and company search for a core of young talent on which to build.
With that being said, who exactly are these young players?
Something gets lost in translation on a team that is 0-5. The observation around the league is that the Jaguars have no talent, but that is simply not true. So who exactly am I referring to?
First, the obvious. The 2013 draft class is the first building block.
Monroe was sent to the Ravens for the picks, but more importantly I believe Monroe was sent to the land of crab cakes and football mainly because Joeckel is the future at left tackle. Joeckel had a rough go at it during his first five weeks of regular season football. Many fans around the city have already given up on the young man. I have no idea why. Yeah, he’s struggled. How many sacks and pressures he’s given up have been somewhat astounding, but I am certainly very upset he’s out for the season. These next 10 weeks of football were going to be invaluable to the young left tackle. Yeah, he’ll be healthy for the offseason next year, but there is no substitute for game experience. I am confident in Joeckel’s work ethic, however, and will be looking forward to his healthy return next season where he will find himself holding down the left side of the line.
Dwight Lowery’s injury thrust young 6th round draft pick Josh Evans into the starting lineup. The fact that Lowery will be released when he returns tells me that Jags brass is ready to see more from the Florida alum. This is very exciting to me, probably one of the most exciting elements of the 2013 Jaguars the rest of the way. 2nd round pick Johnathan Cyprien and 6th round pick Josh Evans will be starting opposite one another. This is a great opportunity for the two to learn the pro game and hopefully become a force to be reckoned with in the secondary. Cyprien has been graded negatively by the numbers, but there is no denying his knack for the ball. Cyprien and Evans will have their rookie struggles, but it will be good for them both and the team in the long run, which we’ve just now started. It’s only the beginning. The future isn’t now.
3rd round rookie Dwayne Gratz needs to get healthy and get out there whenever possible. Bradley says he’s closer to not being ready, but the 3rd round cornerback from UCONN was drafted to start. Now obviously I don’t want them to do anything stupid and rush him back, but I’m ready to see Gratz out on the field. Every missed snap is a missed opportunity to learn.
WR Ace Sanders has been seeing a lot of time in the slot. He’s really just been seeing a lot of time period. He definitely needs some polish to his game, but his potential is obvious. He has 14 catches for 164 yards over the first 5 weeks of football, and I for one am hoping to see some of that playmaking ability for which he was drafted in the 4th round.
What else? There were some pieces, one in particular, left over by the old regime that most definitely have a future. Justin Blackmon returned from his four game suspension and reminded everyone of his beastly talent, catching 5 passes for 136 yards and a TD. Blackmon is the most naturally talented football player on this roster and it’s important that Bradley and Caldwell keep a good strong relationship with the explosive yet troubled young receiver. If Blackmon can stop hitting the sauce, there’s no telling how great he could be. Keep in mind, he looked like that last Sunday catching passes from Blaine Gabbert. Just imagine the possibilities with a young QB from Louisville throwing the ball. The future isn’t now.
Overall how Jacksonville Jaguars respond to adversity (and they’re facing a ton this week) will be a determining factor in the great push for the future. And that’s what this is about-the future. Even though the rebuilding process began, the future is not now. This is only the beginning. Let’s keep an eye on these young players and see what they can offer when the future officially arrives within the next few years.
-David R. Johns