Jaguars Checkup

The first quarter of the season is now complete for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and they sit with a 3-1 record, including two consecutive dominant road victories over AFC opponents, Denver and Kansas City. Not only have the Jaguars matched last season's road win total (two), they did so in two of the toughest places to play in the NFL.

Another thing to take into consideration, is the fact that the Jaguars came out of the bye week ready to play in the first time since 2004 when they defeated the Detroit Lions in overtime.

Previously, one of the main concerns for the Jaguars entering the season was a lack of maturity, and the perception of playing up or down to their opponents. The Jaguars were notorious for coming out of the bye week and playing flat, having previously been 1-3 after the bye under current head coach Jack Del Rio. At this time, it appears as if the team may have finally turned the corner in the maturity department.

In past years, after a dominant emotional victory, like the one in Denver, the Jaguars would come out and lay an egg. Conversely, this year the Jaguars have been dominant on both sides of the ball since the week one loss to the Tennessee Titans.

After giving up a franchise record 282 rushing yards, which is unheard of on the Jaguars defense, the Jaguars have given up just 139 rushing yards in the past three games combined. That is an average of 46.3 rushing yards allowed per game, over the last three. That stat alone however, is not the most impressive one. Those three games were against the Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos, and the Kansas City Chiefs; all teams who ranked 1st, 8th, and 9th in the 2006 season in rushing, respectively. Not only were those teams dominant at running the ball last year, but they have been three of the most dominant rushing teams in the past 5 years in the NFL.

The defense is not the only unit playing well. The Jaguars offense has become more efficient than ever. David Garrard has completed 66.7% of his passes and has a yards per attempt average of 8.3 yards. Most of all, the ball has not been turned over by the quarterback which was a concern to start the season. David Garrard currently has only one turnover in four games, which was due to an unblocked defensive end landing a crushing hit and causing a fumble. Not only is the quarterback playing efficient and effective football, the Jaguars receiving corps seems to be coming into it's own.

Newly acquired receiver Dennis Northcutt has adjusted well since becoming Jaguar, and has become a favorite of David Garrard. He currently leads the team in receptions (15), yards (242), and yards per catch (16.3).

Not only have the receivers as a whole played much better, the tight ends have become a threat in the passing game. So far, the tight ends have combined for 21 catches and 232 yards. The emergence of Marcedes Lewis, who has already surpassed his production of last year, has added a new dimension to this offense. He has added a threat in the middle of the field that have allowed the other receivers in Reggie Williams, Ernest Wilford, Matt Jones, and rookie John Broussard to be more productive and receiver single coverage.

Speaking of Broussard, he along with Dennis Northcutt have added a dimension to the office the Jaguars have not had since Jimmy Smith retired which is deep speed. Broussard currently has the longest touchdown reception on the team (47 yards). We have seen a few deep balls that have just missed to Broussard, but it is likely that he will hook up with Garrard all throughout the season, as he has shown the ability to routinely beat guys down the field which will lead to more receptions and big plays.

Combine both of these facets with the fact that rookie punter Adam Podlesh finally came out of his shell last weekend, this team is poised to make a run. Podlesh left Kansas City with four punts with a net average of 45.0, and 3 of those punts being downed inside the 20. If Podlesh can continue to play at this kind of level and pin teams back, the Jaguars suffocating defense can pin their ears back and attack their opponents offense. Replacement kicker John Carney has done what he's been asked, missing only 1 field goal, of which was out of his range given his age and leg.

There is just one demon facing the Jaguars, and that is looming this weekend, the Houston Texans. The Jaguars have shown the ability to win on the road and win two big games in a row... Now the Jaguars need to show they can finally get past the Texans, which have plagued them in years past.

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