BOOK IT: 10 Things I Think About the Jaguars, Week 1

  • 1.) Aaron Kampman is the juggernaut. The Jaguars seem to have a new buzzword around the locker room – relentless – and Aaron completely embodies this spirit. We all felt a wave of relief with that first sack and what it meant to a team who flat-out could not affect opposing Quarterbacks last year. He was consistently in the backfield, harassing Orton, forcing him to move and make hurried throws, and absolutely PUNISHED the poor guy on many plays.  If you think that a pass rush is only measured in sacks, ask Kyle Orton how he slept Sunday night.
  • 2.) It’s no surprise that Kampman and Wes Welker made “miraculous” recoveries from major knee injuries. Kampman was drafted in the 5th round and Welker was undrafted – they are overachievers that got where they are by outworking their competition. You would be hard-pressed to find two men more committed to their jobs or as steadfast in their preparation. For NFL players, often times that means rehabbing an injury and Kampman and Welker obviously approached their recovery with the same tenacity that has propelled their careers well beyond what was expected.
  • 3.) It was exciting to finally see some pressure again, but let’s remain cautiously optimistic. As Kampman pointed out in this postgame interview, there were rookies at Center and RT and their star lineman, LT Ryan Clady, may not be completely recovered from a knee injury he had this summer. But the pickin’s should be good these next few weeks – the Chargers are missing Pro-Bowl LT Marcus McNeill, the Eagles gave up five sacks yesterday, and the Colts O-line was tabbed as their biggest weakness going into the season.
  • 4.) Same with the pass protection. Eugene Monroe has become invisible, which is exactly what you want out of a LT. You don’t even think about him because whoever he’s facing will be a non-issue. But Monroe did not have to face last year’s league sackmaster, Elvis Dummervil, and Eben Britton had a difficult time with Robert Ayers, surrendering a handful of QB hits (however, rookie Kevin Haslam was in at RT when Garrard was sacked – thanks, Gerald). I think we can make a true appraisal in three weeks after playing the Chargers (good pass rush), Eagles (better), and Colts (best). The Charges and Eagles use more scheme and linebacker pressure, where the Colts whoop you with their elite DE’s. This should answer many questions about how the Jaguars’ O-line performs against exotic looks, pressure up the middle, and pressure from the edges. Eugene Monroe will face Shawn Merriman, Trent Cole, and Dwight Freeney in that time, so we’ll know for sure where he stands. Eben Britton gets Robert Mathis in Week 4, so we will see if he has improved with speedy outside rushers.
  • 5.) Jack Del Rio may or may not be on the hot seat, but he’s not going anywhere quietly. The players believe in him and he believes in his players. Two 4th down attempts on our side of the 50? “Gambler Jack” is back, alright. With every aggressive call that is executed successfully, he’ll believe in them more and they’ll believe in themselves more and as we saw yesterday, willpower is a substantial force.
  • 6.) The players have bought into the culture changes in Jacksonville and the fans are starting to join them. Even if their coach had tried to downplay the significance of the game, the tension was too palpable for anyone to deny. Driving to the stadium, I noticed about a mile or so away the abundance of tailgaters and the unbridled energy in the air for Jaguars football. For anyone who was there, the elements were absolutely brutal, but the stadium was full of teal and fans cheering their hearts out for the Jags through the rain and shine. The players knew they needed a win for this city and they knew they would have to fight through the heat (and rain) to get it. There were lapses at times, but it was evident that the Jaguars were the team that would not settle for anything but a victory and the fans were not disappointed.
  • 7.) Turns out David Garrard is a pretty darn good QB when he has a decent supporting cast. Receivers caught the ball and made plays after the catch and the O-line protected him decently well (although Eben will have to step it up). David finishes with 76% accuracy, a personal record QB rating (138.9), 3 TD’s, and showed good reads and good touch. That sounds like a guy that can lead a team to some wins.
  • 8.) Help is not on the way in the secondary. I think it’s time we admit to ourselves that something is very wrong with Derek Cox – this is not the same player we saw last year and all indications are that he’s hiding an injury. Many big completions were made, but fortunately the positioning and tackling were good enough to stop them once the ball was caught. The Defense made some big plays when we needed them though, making a few clutch sacks and pass deflections. Sometimes that will be enough, but poor coverage is unfortunately something we’re going to have to get used to this year.
  • 9.) Kassim Osgood will be a fan favorite very soon. The effort from this guy! I couldn’t have been any happier for him on that Touchdown catch and it came exactly as we predicted it (check out the highlight page, 4th video down). His running was anything but graceful, the break in his post route was more of a bend, he made the catch with his body, BUT he shielded Brian Dawkins from the ball and bulldozed his way to the endzone. Beyond the big catch to give the Jags the lead they would not surrender, Kassim was a terror on Special Teams. He was double teamed on every Jaguars punt and looked like he was having a barfight the whole way down the sideline yet wasn’t even slowed in his pursuit. If you get the chance, watch him on punt coverage – it is hilarious to watch how he bullies a pair of third-stringers just trying to keep a roster spot.
  • 10.) That was the best TEAM performance I have ever seen from the Jaguars. Every phase and every player contributed. At the end of the day, it is player skill – not schemes or team chemistry or any of that – that win games. But I honestly believe that the culture changes in our locker room make us stronger than we’ve ever been. Did the Defense give up some big plays? Yes. But they were the ones making the plays when we needed them big time. That is what I expect out of this team for the year. Picking each other up and playing tough, staying competitive in every game. I don’t know how we’ll end up, but this will be an exciting team to root for.

– Andrew Hofheimer