Jaguars Final 53
QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- David Garrard. Backup -- Luke McCown.
Garrard must play better in 2010 if the Jaguars are to have any hopes of making the playoffs this year. That was the message first sent out by team owner Wayne Weaver shortly after the 2009 season ended. Garrard's QB rating the last two years has been in the low 80s and that has stymied the offense. He's vowed to be more assertive this year, chew out teammates when needed and be a stronger leader. But he's first got to show he can perform at an elite level on the field like he did in 2007 (102.2 QB rating for the year) but has failed to do the last two seasons. McCown has had an inconsistent training camp, but has performed well in the preseason games. The talent is there but he has to show it on a consistent basis during the practices, not just in games against backup players. With just two quarterbacks on the active roster, the Jaguards signed Brett Ratliff (Browns) to the practice squad.
RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- RB Maurice Jones-Drew, FB Greg Jones. Backups -- RB Rashad Jennings, FB Montell Owens, FB Brock Bolen.
Will Jones-Drew be 100 percent for the regular-season opener? It's tough to determine because he's only carried the ball six times in the first two preseason games and then was held out the last two. Is he hurt or are the Jaguars just being cautious that he doesn't get banged up before the opener? Hard to say because neither the Jaguars nor Jones-Drew will say. Both do deny that he's had any knee surgery in the last 10 days. While he watches, Jennings has gotten plenty of time and attention, such that he'll only see limited action in the team's final preseason game. The biggest question left to be answered is will undrafted rookie Bolen unseat the more experienced but more expensive Jones (due to make $3 million this year)? Bolin has looked good, but he can't match Jones' blocking talents.
TIGHT END: Starter -- Marcedes Lewis. Backups -- Zach Miller, Zach Potter.
Lewis may be the most improved veteran on the team. He's catching everything thrown his way, has vastly improved his blocking technique and has joined Garrard as the outspoken leaders of the offense. The coaching staff has been waiting for this type of production from the 5-year pro out of UCLA. He's likely to exceed his personal high of 41 catches in his career and could finish as the team's No. 2 receiver behind wideout Mike Sims-Walker. When healthy, Miller can be a dangerous threat utilized as a wide receiver at the tight end position. He's got speed, the knack of getting open and great hands, but his blocking is a drawback.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Mike Sims-Walker, Mike Thomas. Backups -- Jarett Dillard, Tiquan Underwood, Kassim Osgood.
This may have been the area of most concern at the conclusion of the 2009 season. Osgood is the only new addition to the group from a year ago, but the staff likes the way the others have developed into above average receivers. Sims-Walker could be ready for a breakout season if the others pose enough of a presence to take some of the pressure and attention away from him. Thomas has grabbed hold of the No. 2 spot and looked solid in the preseason games. The No. 3 spot, the speed receiver position, is still up for grabs among Dillard and Underwood. Osgood hasn't panned out in his big tryout as a receiver, but everyone is so enamored with his skills as a special teams player, he made the roster just for that.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LT Eugene Monroe, LG Kynan Forney, C Brad Meester, RG Uche Nwaneri, RT Eben Britton. Backups -- T Jordan Black, G Justin Smiley, G Vince Manuwai, T Kevin Haslam.
Four of the five spots are settled after veteran Meester held off all challenges to win the right to play an 11th -- and likely final -- season with the Jaguars. The lone remaining spot to fill is at guard where Forney, Smiley and Manuwai are still battling. All are veterans, which means one will start, one will be a backup and one will not make the roster. Best guess is that it will be Manuwai, Forney and Smiley in that order. All have had trouble staying healthy in training camp with Smiley missing the most time. Black will be the backup tackle. Black has seen some time at the tight end spot but only as a blocker.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LE Derrick Harvey, DT Tyson Alualu, DT Terrance Knighton, RE Aaron Kampman. Backups -- LE Jeremy Mincey, RE Larry Hart, DE Austen Lane, DT Leger Douzable, DT Landon Cohen, DE Aaron Morgan.
More question marks with this group than the coaches would like. The starting unit seems solid but it hasn't spent a lot of time together as the staff has been hesitant to have them on the field too much and risking injury. Alualu appears to be the perfect fit for Knighton and those two should clog the middle and apply a formidable pass rush. Bigger questions come at the end spots where Kampman has shown the ability to wreak havoc on QBs but that was before he had ACL surgery on his knee last December. Harvey was said to have had a strong training camp, but in the first three preseason games, he recorded just six total tackles and one sack. Smith's Achilles injury, which sent him to IR was a big loss as he was set to be the No. 3 DT. Hart and Lane are promising rookies and will likely stick with the club.
LINEBACKERS: Starters -- WLB Daryl Smith, MLB Kirk Morrison, SLB Justin Durant. Backups -- Russell Allen, Jacob Cutrera.
The only question among who would start was a battle between Durant and Allen with the former winning out. If one of the three would go down, Allen would be the replacement though there may be a shift in positions. If Morrison can maintain the high energy level he showed in Oakland the last five years, the Jaguars will have made a steal in getting him from the Raiders during the draft without having to give up players or draft picks. Morrison is a vocal leader, but bottom line is he's yet to play on a winning team in either college or the NFL. Smith is back to his more natural spot on the outside and should be a force there. Durant is athletic but has a tendency to over-react and miss out on the play. While Allen could fill in without any noticeable difference in the starters, there's a significant drop-off after that. Already, three linebackers are on reserve/injured. If two starters go down for the Jaguars, this will be a vulnerable area for opponents to exploit.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- CB Rashean Mathis, CB Derek Cox, SS Anthony Smith, S Courtney Greene. Backups -- CB Don Carey, CB Michael Coe, SS Sean Considine, FS Tyron Brackenridge, CB David Jones.
Two months of OTAs in the spring and summer, two weeks of training camp and three preseason games and no one knows for sure who will start at either safety spot in the secondary. The corners are set with Mathis and Cox though once again, both fell victim to allowing some big completions in preseason games. Smith appears to have won the strong safety job as Considine did nothing to show that he's ready to reclaim a starting job in the NFL. At free safety, it's a guess. Reggie Nelson was traded, and the only candidates are Greene and Brackenridge. Carey and Coe continue to make strides in developing as corners and will see time as a nickel back. This unit was a weak area a year ago and it doesn't appear to be a lot stronger a year later.
SPECIAL TEAMS: P Adam Podlesh, PK Josh Scobee, LS Jeremy Cain, PR Scotty McGee, PR Mike Thomas, KR Deji Karim, KR Scotty McGee.
The kicking game looks to be better than it was in 2009. Scobee, who suffered through his worst of six seasons with the Jaguars a year ago, connected on all seven of his field goal attempts in the first three preseason games. Even his kickoffs seem to higher and deeper than before. Podlesh was strong in the punting department, averaging better than 42.5 yards a kick in the first three games. He's not being pushed by anyone and has improved on his directional kicks, placing five of his 12 punts inside the 20 yard line including two inside the 5-yard line.
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