Miami can’t come soon enough!
By Zoltan Paksa
Well, the first preseason game is in the books; and it showed to us that the Jaguars still have work to do. But let me present the game from different angles. Sure everybody is now jumping on the “QB controversy” which is sure to be topic #1 all week long. But I think this new situation actually might be in the best interests of the Jaguars and David Garrard. Why? It is true that not since the departure of Byron Leftwich has he faced real competition in training camp. Luke McCown called him out with an impressive side by side performance and now David must secure his job. If David is that “improved leader and player” which he said all off-season long, this will force him to be sharper, to become much more accurate, to become a better leader. David needs to be ready on opening day.
That was the biggest disappointment for me. The first team looked everything but ready. Terry and I wrote a couple of times how important it is for the Jaguars to be ready on opening day.
I did not see that same feeling in most of the starters. I saw it in Terrance Knighton’s performance. I see no need to worry about the weight problem anymore at least not this season. “Pot Roast” is more dominant then ever. I saw it on Justin Durant and I saw it on Brad Meester. One more performance like this and the fight for the starting center position is over! That was all of the starters that I felt were ready and serious.
I saw another frightening thing too. Covering the space between the LBs and the secondary is still unsolved. And if the Jaguars can’t figure out something then offensive coordinators will target that area all day long with their passing game. I am not pleased by the secondary. And although Reggie Nelson was impressive in the first couple of plays he was in the field, he defended a pass which was a sure TD, in the second half I saw too much of the same Reggie Nelson. He still has a problem with coverage and sometimes (at Vick’s TD) tackling. Remember how Jack promised “it will improved”. More and more I think without a good pass rush or a great cornerback, like Rashean Mathis now looks like the undisputed DB champ in the whole roster and should be paid, Reggie can be worthless. That is sad news for a former 1st round pick…
But it was good to see another former 1st round pick came to the game to make some big plays; Troy Williamson is once again the king of the preseason. Once again a game with over 100 yard receiving. Wow! If only he could do that in any of the regular season games. I hope he can finally prove himself. If he makes it this roster, this is his last chance to show he can play when it matters. I think he knows this pre-season is crunch time to him.
I mentioned the pass defense was bad. Let’s see how the pass protection and the pass rush worked. The pass protection was surprisingly great even with Jordan Black and Paul McQuistan at tackles. The whole offensive line gave up 2 sacks, both at the end of the game.
Maybe the competition has improved this unit. The pass rush, on the other hand, was not a factor when the starters were in. Although Derrick Harvey sacked Michael Vick and caused a turnover on that play, I AM SURE this was not the performance Joe Cullen wanted. I hope when Kampman; Lane and Alulau can join the line, then this line will represent much more force than this. We will see.
Now let’s see the rookies that Gene drafted this April, well those who are still healthy. Larry Hart was lost all game long and even suffered an injury during the game. Although –opposite to poor Mike Sims-Walker; whose real condition is the biggest mystery; and worries me the most right now-Larry Hart came back. He did not match the expectations we hoped for. But the other 2 rookies; the 2 returners showed me that they make this special team unit one of the biggest threat in the whole NFL! The Jaguars have fearless returners and good ST players all the way through the line-up including a reliable kicker. If Adam (in my contract year) Podlesh could be better then I would say the sky is the limit for Ross Prunell’s unit. This unit showed off quite well.
Although thanks to Luke McCown and the second unit; the game was really close; and sometimes even entertaining to watch; this was a wakeup call for the 1st team and Jack Del Rio. This team is far from being ready for opening day. Luckily this game was meaningless, but the time is running and running fast. Only 3 games left (actually 2; because against Atlanta we will see nothing important when it comes to the 1st team) to correcting the errors and flaws we saw on Friday. Most of the starters must raise their playing level. And David Garrard must make a case for him being the best option at QB. For him and for most people (including coaches) the upcoming game on Saturday against Miami can’t come soon enough!