Eric Hartz: Maurice Jones-Drew has had tremendous success vs. Indianapolis during his brief career, but he's always had another famous Colts killer, Fred Taylor, by his side. With Taylor gone to New England, is Jones-Drew ready to shoulder the load for a full season? We know he is a little banged up, so what do you expect his workload to be like on Sunday?
Charlie Bernstein: I believe that Jones-Drew is ready to carry the entire load of the offense, and what I mean by the entire load is for him to touch the ball on at least 40 percent of the Jaguars' snaps. David Garrard can't be trusted to throw the ball down-field so the entire offense is MJD. Even with the injury, I expect MJD to get roughly 25 touches in the running game or catching the ball out of the backfield.
EH: The Jaguars' offensive line was a patchwork affair last season and the results were that David Garrard was sacked a whopping 42 times. From what you've seen so far, have the problems been ironed out, or is this group in for another inconsistent performance in 2009?
CB: A lot of the sacks last season were from Garrard holding the football and that hasn't really seemed to change much this preseason. With the selections of Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, the line certainly has more talent, and the return of both Vince Manuwai and Maurice Williams will help the interior. The line should give Garrard time, but he must get rid of the ball quicker.
EH: Speaking of the offensive line, how have rookie tackles Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton looked so far? Are they ready to step into the lineup from Day One?
CB: Monroe is a real pro, and he beat out former Pro Bowler Tra Thomas for the starting left tackle job. Monroe is better in pass protection than run blocking, but he will be one of the better left tackles in the league by season's end. Britton hasn't been quite as good, as he's been bull-rushed by some smaller guys in this preseason, but he was Tony Pashos's equal in preseason, and that led to Pashos's release. Are they ready for Mathis and Freeney? It will likely be a long day.
EH: In Wednesday's conference call, David Garrard seemed to shoulder some of the blame for the number of sacks last season. Is it fair for him to share some of the blame, or does the problem reside mainly in front of him?
CB: Garrard threw his offensive line under the bus in a sideline interview during the first preseason game and I believe someone talked to him about that. The line wasn't great last year, but it wasn't terrible either, especially after the first six games. Garrard simply held the ball too long leading to a lot of those hits.
EH: After a Pro Bowl-caliber season in 2007, Garrard appeared to tak. a step backwards last year in his overall game? Although he has only been a full-time starter for two seasons, he's 31 years old. He's obviously the undisputed starter for now, but should the Jaguars start thinking about upgrading at the position?
CB: Garrard was a classic mistake-prone, strong-armed backup quarterback prior to 2007 and he rode a great running game to a very good season. Teams figured out that if they loaded up the box, they could force Garrard to beat him and he regressed back to the quarterback he's been the rest of his career. The Jaguars have already begun the upgrade, as they traded for former Bucs backup Luke McCown, and if the team struggles after the first five games as I suspect they will, they could move in that direction. They will likely draft a quarterback early next April.
EH: Rashad Jennings was a draft crush for many Colts fans in this year's NFL Draft, and he ended up falling well down the board before the Jaguars nabbed him. How has the big rookie RB looked and what role do you see him playing with the team this year and down the road?
CB: Jennings has looked a bit hesitant in preseason, but still showed great feet and good-enough speed. Jennings will likely receive some carries as Jones-Drew's backup this season, and his role will likely expand next year.
EH: Both the Colts and the Jags (as well as the Texans and the Titans) have new defensive coordinators this season. What, if any, differences, can Colts fans expect to see from the Jacksonville D in this matchup?
CB: The Jaguars have experimented with the 3-4 in the preseason and you can expect to see some of that in passing situations on Sunday. John Henderson moved to RDE in the 3-4, with Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves as stand-up linebackers.
EH: The Jaguars have made some interesting draft moves the last two years, with drafting two tackles on the first day this year, to moving up in the 2008 draft and taking Florida DE Derrick Harvey eighth overall, and then taking Auburn DE Quinton Groves in the second round. It's too early to judge Britton and Monroe, obviously, but how do you feel the 2008 moves will work out for the team?
CB: Derrick Harvey is somewhat behind schedule still for the eighth-overall pick in the draft, but he has shown flashes of being explosive. Groves is clearly a 3-4 OLB, and he simply can't hold up with his hand on the ground against the run. When the Jaguars completely switch to the 3-4, both players will be more effective.
EH: Four of the last six games in this series have been decided by a touchdown or less. What is the biggest key for the Jaguars to keep this oneclose and have a chance to win at the end, as they did last season at Lucas Oil Stadium?
CB: To keep this game close against the Colts fantastic offense, the Jaguars must play mistake-free football. No turnovers, no special teams breakdowns, and they must be able to run the football and control the clock. The Jaguars defense is in a state of transition, and nobody really knows what to expect. They will be starting Rashean Mathis, who Peyton Manning has picked on over the years, and a rookie from William and Mary in Derek Cox at the corner positions. For the Jags to be in this one in the fourth quarter, they must keep the ball out of Peyton Manning's hands as much as possible.
EH: Finally, what is your prediction for Sunday's game?
CB: Aside from New England, Indianapolis may be the worst possible team for the Jaguars to open with. The rookie tackles will get a christening from Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, and the young secondary will get exploited by one of the game's great quarterbacks. The Jaguars will play a tough game, but they don't have the horses to compete with these ponies. Colts 31, Jaguars 13.
Charlie Bernstein is the host of CB Sports on ESPN Radio 1420 in St. Augustine, and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.
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