Right and Wrong: Jaguars Posed for Future

The Jaguars are in the wrong conference. If they were in the NFC, they'd probably have a good shot at the Super Bowl. But they're in the AFC and they can't get past Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

Now that they're settled at the quarterback position with David Garrard, the Jaguars figure they're going to become regular visitors to the NFL's playoff party.

"It's going to be a reoccurring thing," defensive end Paul Spicer said Sunday. "You're going to see the Jaguars in the playoffs."

But unless they can figure out how to beat Brady or Manning or both, they're not going to make the AFC title game, much less the Super Bowl.

After being eliminated in New England Saturday night, 31-20, the Jaguars have gone 32-19 the last three years, including a 1-2 playoff mark.

But they're 1-8 against Brady, who has beaten them for three consecutive years, including twice in the playoffs, and Manning, the Colts' quarterback who's 5-1 against them in that span.

Brady also led the Patriots to a 28-3 playoff victory over the Jaguars in 2005 and there's little evidence that the Jaguars are closing the gap against him.

Two years ago, they only trailed 7-3 at halftime and were blanked in the second half. This time, they were tied 14-14 at halftime and were held to two field goals in the second half.

And since Manning's Colts are in their division, the Jaguars will have to settle for a wild-card spot and playing on the road in the playoffs if they can't beat them.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Coach Jack Del Rio made a bold move nine days before the season started when he cut Byron Leftwich and named Garrard his starting quarterback after naming Leftwich the starter in February.

Garrard had clearly outplayed Leftwich in training camp, but Del Rio had to go to owner Wayne Weaver to approve the move because James Harris, who drafted Leftwich on the first round in 2003, wanted to stick with him.

If Garrard, who lost the last three games of last season and was benched in the season finale, had struggled and the Jaguars had a losing season, Del Rio probably would have been fired. Now he's due for a contract extension and a raise from his current salary of $3.3 million.

Garrard is now entrenched as the starter as he posted a 102.2 passer rating in the regular season while throwing 18 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Just as Garrard got the offense clicking and made it the strength of the team, the defense eroded and will have to be rebuilt in the offseason.

The major problem was injuries. Defensive tackle Marcus Stroud, who underwent microfracture surgery on his ankle in the offseason, failed to regain his Pro Bowl form and wound up on the injured reserve list. Defensive end Reggie Hayward underwent Achilles tendon surgery after being injured last year and also didn't recover the form that enticed the Jaguars to give him a five-year, $25 million deal in 2005.

And middle linebacker Mike Peterson broke his hand with six games left in the regular season and didn't play again.

They also lost free safety Deon Grant in free agency and first-round draft pick Reggie Nelson had a disappointing year as his replacement. He's not a big hitter and misses too many tackles.

And when strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh went on injured reserve, they had to sign aging Sammy Knight.

Besides the defense, the wide receiving corps continues to be a problem. They don't have a franchise receiver and both Dennis Northcutt and Matt   Jones dropped touchdown passes. They need to find a go-to receiver.


Jags Illustrated Top Stories