Good News / Bad News Jaguars

There's good news for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The good news is that it is the only the middle of May, the first sessions of mini-camp are over, almost everyone showed up (ahem, Bobby McCray), and the team isn't going to play a meaningful game for nearly five months. The bad news, or should I say paranoia, for the Jaguars and their fans, is that there are already injury questions and issues.

Minor muscle pulls, tweaks, or sprains are nothing out of the ordinary for most teams in the months of May, June, or July. They are largely considered to be not a big deal, as the players have over two full months to heal up before training camp begins at the end of July. This year however, it is different for the Jaguars organization, and Jaguars fans alike. Last year, the Jaguars saw their season go up in smoke, largely in part to the 15 players that the team placed on the injured reserve. That is certainly cause for injury paranoia in '07.

Some of the injuries that appear minor are the hamstring, and other various muscle pulls of Rashean Mathis, Reggie Williams, Matt   Jones, and Marcedes Lewis. Mathis sat out of the first set of OTA's (organized team activities), and the first weekend of mini-camp as a precautionary measure. Mathis then returned to the camp during the week and showed no ill effects. Reggie Williams reportedly pulled a hammy during the week, and injured a couple of his fingers last week. None of those injuries appear to be serious, especially the fingers, as Reggie evidenced by catching most everything thrown his way over the weekend practices.

The injuries to Matt Jones and Marcedes Lewis may cause the team and their fans to have a little more anxiety. Jones missed a lot of time in '06 with a bad ankle, and some hamstring pulls, and reportedly pulled his quadriceps during last weekends practice session. Jones has been labeled by many as soft, and he's still considered raw at best when it comes to route running, as he's not a natural wide receiver. There are many who believe that the Jaguars should give up on Jones already, and with the new infusion of talent at the wide receiver position (Northcutt, Walker, Broussard), Jones can't afford to miss much practice time. Marcedes Lewis has reportedly pulled a hamstring, which shouldn't be a major concern, except for the fact that Lewis injured his ankle in the first preseason game of '06. That ankle injury caused Lewis to miss most of training camp, and it basically caused him to play catchup, and thus derailed his rookie season. However minor this injury seems, Lewis can't really afford to miss any more time getting reps, even if it is in practice.

Some injuries that Jaguars fans should worry about a little more are the lingering injuries to Marcus Stroud, Reggie Hayward, and George Wrighster. Marcus Stroud missed significant time last season due to various ankle and knee injuries that for some reason, don't seem to be getting better. Marcus Stroud and the Jaguars haven't played a football game since the end of December, and Stroud was still limping noticeably in camp last weekend. Regular sprains don't take nearly five and a half months to heal fully. Reggie Hayward is a question mark, to the surprise of very few. On opening day last September, Hayward ruptured his Achilles tendon against the Dallas Cowboys. That injury caused the Jaguars best pass rusher to miss the rest of the '06 season, and the recovery period for a ruptured Achilles can be up to two years. George Wrighster missed camp with a torn labrum in his shoulder. Wrighster had surgery on the shoulder a few months ago and should be ready for training camp. Wrighster had a career year in '06, and should build upon that with new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter's new offense, which emphasizes the use of tight ends in the passing game.

Many of the Jaguars early injuries are likely no cause for concern. Hamstrings and quadriceps should heal, and if they don't the Jaguars appear to have some pretty good depth at wide receiver. With Wrighster and Marcedes Lewis both nicked up, the Jaguars tight end rotation looks awfully slim with journeyman veteran Jermaine Wiggins being the best pass-catching option, although it is likely that at least one of the two should be healthy when training camp opens. The most troubling of the Jaguars injuries, and the ones that could have the most severe impact, are certainly the injuries to Stroud and Hayward. If Stroud and Hayward are taken away from the Jaguars defensive line, the team will likely struggle to rush the passer, as they did in '06. The Jaguars didn't really add any defensive ends in free agency or the draft, with the exception of Brian Smith, a fourth round pick who is also injured (recovering from a broken hip in college). If Stroud's ankle hasn't healed yet (from the end of last season), I'm not so certain it will heal in the next couple of months, and if the Jaguars rotation is missing Stroud and Hayward, it will be difficult for them to be the dominant unit that they are advertised to be in '07.


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