Zoltan’s biggest rant ever – The gut check is here Jaguars!
By Zoltan Paksa
24 hours after the massacre of Eagles game, we are trying to move on to the next game; but in the same time still focusing on the lessons of last Sunday. It is a tough pill to swallow (Gene Frenette of the Florida Times Union just called the game the lowest point of the Jack Del Rio era; which is in its 8th year). I think the Jaguars can turn this around this season; but the task is bigger than winning twice in Heinz Field in the same season…It is a gut check on many levels. Let’s dig deeper.
Anyone remember my article when I stated this secondary can kill this season? It was not long ago, right after the end of the preseason, when I watched the backup QB of the Buccaneers; Josh Johnson tear this secondary apart. The next week Falcons backup QB Chris Redman did the same with the Falcons backups versus many starters of this defensive backfield. In Sunday’s game it was crystal clear to me that this unit is horrible. Jonathan Loesche said it best on Sunday night post-game radio show; that ”the Jaguars secondary is starting to become what the Jaguars receivers were in the Matt Jones- Reggie Williams era”. I called them a joke. Sorry guys; but the front 7 (except maybe Derrick Harvey) played their hearts out last Sunday; put pressure on Vick; but because of the secondary it just appeared in sacks and QB hits; but nothing else. I read many articles praising Michael Vick and how good he was. I disagree with that. The Jaguars secondary made him look like that. I think he struggled in the first half; but when he realized he throwing into a “no danger zone”; he got confident. What has lead to this shameful situation? Well these days people often blame Shack Harris and how he never drafted a QB all those years. I say Gene Smith must get some blame for not addressing the secondary issue. Yeah; you can’t change a whole defense in 1 off-season; but he basically did (almost) nothing to boost the secondary; which was a key issue when the season ended. Who came into the safety position; which was after DE the biggest need right away when the ’09 season ended? NOBODY! Reggie Nelson is gone; and I’m glad he is out. But who came instead of him? Nobody. Gene Smith now brought back Gerald Alexander yesterday; who was cut before the season started (If he was not enough for the 53 roster then for Gene why does he thinks he is worth for a roster spot all of sudden?…) As Vic Ketchman quoted often from Chuck Noll: Help is not on the way. But I have my reply for that this time: You had 9 months to solve the problem! This was not new (Like the situation with the QBs; where McCown’s MCL created a sad situation all of sudden); but the biggest solution for the problem was making Tyron Brackenridge (a backup corner) into a (backup) safety…
But to be fair- the there is a perfect storm at the position. The 2 starting corners all of sudden disappeared. Rashean Mathis is starting to become a BELOW average CB; Derek Cox was sidelined by Jack Del Rio because he is nowhere near where he was last year. Anthony Smith is injured. David Jones and Courtney Greene contributed against the Chargers; but let’s face it; one of them was traded for Reggie Nelson, the other is in a perfect situation a practice squad guy. I give Sean Considine alone a pass. He is the leading tackler of the Jaguars right now; had a sack and is trying consistently his hardest. But he is slow and not effective against TEs. So there we stand right now. That unit must feel very embarrassed right now. And the situation is not getting better Peyton Manning is coming to Jacksonville on Sunday. He had 9 TDs and no picks. Playing at the level nobody can consistently play in the regular season. This is a gut check of the secondary. I am not ask for impossible things, not asking for shutting him down- maybe the Baltimore Ravens- the Nr. 1 ranked pass defense can do that. But limit him as much to give the offense a chance to win the game!
Speaking of the offense, I know everyone is focusing on David Garrard and his current level of play. Of course I didn’t lik what I saw from him 2 weeks in a row. He looked really lost to me on Sunday. He had no answers; no sign of confidence – and no protection which was new this season. Side note: The whole offensive line played horrible. I thought Eben and Eugene could handle Trent Cole and the Eagles rushers. They failed that test; even Eugene. I have not seen him play so bad since the 1stpart of ’09. Not the best sign before facing Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney…I want to see protection from the unit. Gut check for them- get a game where Garrard isn’t sacked! Back to David; I think he knows the end is near for him. He basically is playing for his life in the NFL after the Jaguars. If McCown was still healthy; Jack might promoted him already after the last 2 games. And even I; who still believes in David would understand that. In the Chargers game; he moved the offense; but he had the interceptions. In Sunday; he was lost. He was everything; but a leader. I don’t know if the Jaguars can claim Trent Edwards; but if not; and David continues to struggle; I might buy the idea to get a trade for Chad Pennigton. Which says everything; because I hate the idea to trade any draft picks away before next year’s very important (QB) draft. David was inconsistent in the past. I hope he will remain to be that; because that would mean another big game for him on Sunday. This is a gut check for him. Beating the Colts under his leadership (because I think nobody expects the defense will win that game) is the best way to silence the critics. For a while….
There is a person who is basically tied his life at the Jaguars to David, the head coach. I agree with Luke; Jack did with the defense what he could do. The defense made big stops; put the pressure on Vick until it was close. I spent a few lines about how he is responsible for the secondary: not much. Side note: Although I would give some blame on Mel Tucker. He is a secondary specialist right? Well; Mathis and Cox all have the potential; but now they lack showing it. Can you explain to me why; Mel?.. I see on Jack that he is fighting hard for his job. But the secondary and the QB situation is on the verge of creating a perfect storm for him which he will not survive as a head coach. He gets little help from his staff (other then maybe Joe Cullen and Rob Boras). Dirk Koetter’s game plan was something I don’t understand at the Eagles game. The way he sometimes used Mike Thomas against much taller defensive backs instead of using a TE (Miller or Lewis). The way he not using Zach Miller. He is our pass catching TE. Right? Because I barely see him in action. Is he hurt? I don’t see him on the injury report so I’m guess not. Then why he is so secret a weapon even his own fans have a tough time recognizing him.
My main problem is with the Jaguars and not just in ’10; that they can’t play in every unit well in the same time. Once the defense shows signs; the offense has a bad day. Once the protection is good; the pass rush has issues. Once the lines plays well; elsewhere somebody (someone from the secondary/receivers; David; Maurice) has a bad day. Once they protect the QB and rush the passer; passes are dropped and the defense has tackling issues. I can’t remember when was the last time when I said to myself- every unit played well. And that is something we can hold the Head coach accountable. I want to see a game; when I have a hard time to blame something or someone. This is my gut check for the coaching staff. I want to see a well executed game plan on offense; defense and special teams in 1 game! Against Indy it will be hard; but if Jack and his coaches can manage that; they will receive huge credit.
One last area; where we will see a gut check this week; but earlier than Sunday: the ticket sales. It was 2 very disappointing loss in a row. I know many Jaguars fans are angry or disappointed with the team. But this is a divisional game against the biggest rival of the last decade. Last time when the Colts visited Jacksonville; the team and the town came together. It was a loss; but the fans were proud to the team and vice versa. When I writing this down; there is still 1564 tickets needed to sell to avoid the blackout. This is key. If this game will be black out will send a terrible message; that even against the Colts the Jaguars can’t fill Everbank Field. Were/Are you mad because of the shots the team receives from the media? Stand strong; and support the team even in the bad times. The Lions lost 40 of the 43 last games recently. If I know well; they had 2 blackouts last year; and Michigan was hit harder by the recession then North Florida; so the” can’t afford it” excuse is not playing here. Is this a very bad football team? I would think the answer is no. With all the bad things I mentioned is any reason not to support this team? The answer is no. I ask everybody; who consider himself as a fan to do everything to have at least 3 more blackout free games (The 3 divisional rival coming into the city. 1 of that will be in prime time on Monday night). Until the 1st game against the Texans we will see clearly what direction the season goes. If points toward a bad year; I can give a pass against the rest of the home schedule being blacked out (especially the Browns and the Raiders), But if Jack; David and the team can turn this around and manage to be a legitimate playoff contender; then I call for a full year support from the fan base. But that being said let’s focus on the upcoming task; and lift the blackout for the Colts game. That is the gut check for the fans.