2004 Jacksonville Jaguars Season Preview

<b>Head Coach: </b> Jack Del Rio (5-11) <br><br><b>Last Season's Record: </b> 5-11, 3rd AFC South <br><br><b>Last Play Off Appearance: </b> 1999 <br><br><b>Key matchup(s): </b> @ Tennessee (September 26th); Indianapolis (October 3rd); @ Houston (October 31st); Tennessee (November 21st); @ Green Bay (December 19th)

09/12/04 @Buffalo
09/19/04 Denver 
09/26/04 @Tennessee
10/03/04 Indianapolis
10/10/04 @San Diego 
10/17/04 Kansas City
10/24/04 @Indianapolis 
10/31/04 @Houston
11/14/04 Detroit 
11/21/04 Tennessee
11/28/04 @Minnesota
12/05/04 Pittsburgh
12/12/04 Chicago 
12/19/04 @Green Bay 
12/26/04 Houston
01/02/05 @Oakland
Quarterback Byron Leftwich #7 of the Jacksonville Jaguars looks to surprise the rest of the NFL and take the sleeping Jaguars into a winning season.
Getty Images/Eliot J. Schechter

  Star Power: Byron Leftwich (QB, 2nd year, 6'5", 245 lbs); Fred Taylor (RB, 7th year, 6'1", 234 lbs); Jimmy Smith (WR, 12th year, 6'1", 213 lbs); John Henderson (DT, 3rd year, 6'7", 328 pounds); Marcus Stroud (DT, 4th year, 6'6", 315 lbs); Donovin Darius (S, 7th year, 6'1", 225 lbs)

Notable Additions: Ephriam Salaam (OT, 7th year, 6'7" 295 lbs, signed from Denver); Dwayne Washington (CB, 11th year, 5'11", 195 lbs, signed from Pittsburgh); Deon Grant (S, 5th year, 6'2", 207 lbs, signed from Carolina)

Notable Subtractions: Mark Brunell (QB, signed with Washington); Fernando Bryant (CB, signed with Detroit); Kevin Johnson (WR, signed with Baltimore)

Notable Returnees: Vince Manuwai (OG, 2nd year, 6'2", 312 lbs); Brad Meester (C, 5th year, 6'3", 300 lbs); Chris Naeole (OG, 8th year, 6'3", 315 lbs); Hugh Douglas (DE, 10th year, 6'2", 280 lbs)

Offensive Overview: With Leftwich at the helm the offense will continue to rely on Taylor to generate enough of a running game to keep defenses honest while the young QB learns the offense and how to read defenses. Leftwich has a solid go-to guy in Smith and a young stud in 2004 first-rounder Reggie Williams. Taylor has the gifts to be an elite back but because of injuries during his career he just hasn't gotten over that hump. Taylor has started every game for the last two seasons and last year he set a career high with 1,572 yards rushing. The offensive line is suspect at the tackles but the interior of the line is set with Meester at center and Naeole and Manuwai at guard. The Jags will run behind these three monsters and hope to get in third and short situations allowing Leftwich to have several options when he comes to the line.

Defensive Overview: The defense is excellent against the run allowing only 87.9 yards per game, but they were woeful against the pass allowing too many big plays. This area was the sole concentration of Del Rio during the season and the hope is an improved pass-rush will help matters. Henderson and Stroud form a brick wall in the middle of the line, but even though Stroud went to his first Pro Bowl, they still need to collapse the pocket more accounting for a combined total of eight sacks. The Jaguars registered only 24 sacks last season and a big reason was DE Hugh Douglas was a complete bust after signing a big contract. He registered only 3.5 sacks and was overweight and unhappy with the defensive schemes. Word is he has slimmed down and that he is ready to revive his career…stay tuned. The linebackers, safeties and corners will benefit greatly from a productive season out of the front four and Del Rio is hoping to get a Pro Bowl season from Darius in the deep third.

Special Teams Overview: The biggest move here was the hiring of renowned special teams guru Pete Rodriguez to coach the unit back to respectability. He has his work cut out for him as the kicking game was a shambles in 2003. They are currently letting rookie Josh Scobee and veterans Jeff Chandler and Seth Marler battle for the job. Punter Chris Hanson is still trying to recover from a locker room accident that resulted in his right leg being gashed with an axe. The punt return duties will be handled by Jermaine Lewis who is still recovering from a knee injury.

The Jaguars will finish (8-8) challenge for a wild-card playoff spot if.......  Leftwich continues to progress, Williams becomes a viable option opposite Smith, and the defense improves its pass rush.

TheInsiders.com 2004 NFL Football Preview

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