The Jaguars thought they improved in the offseason with the acquisitions of Jerry Porter, Drayton Florence, and Jimmy Kennedy, and the drafting of Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves, but it appears as if they are worse, much worse.
Offensively, the same team that finished the second half of last season as the second-best scoring offense in the NFL simply can't get out of its own way. With season ending injuries to both Vince Manuwai and Mo Williams, the Jaguars offensive line can't protect effectively, nor can they open up any room for the running game.
"I think it's tough anytime you lose three offensive lineman," said wide receiver Matt Jones, one of the few bright spots on the team. The game starts up front, and you have to control the line of scrimmage. That's how you win the game, by pushing them back."
The offensive line surge was nearly non-existent in Sunday's embarrassing loss to the Bengals, as the Jaguars gained just 68 yards on 21 rushing attempts.
"Didn't see it," said Jack Del Rio when asked about the surge of the offensive line. "Did you see surge?"
On top of that, David Garrard has been somewhat inconsistent and seems to get rattled with pressure and appears to be lacking confidence in both his line and his receivers. Garrard attributes his lack of effectiveness to the line in front of him.
"Well that never helps," Garrard spoke about getting hit so much. "Once again, it's just part of the job. You would love to come out of the game and not get touched but once or twice, but it's not always going to be like that. I've just got to continue to man up and take one for the team."
On defense, the Jaguars are much worse than they were a year before. A team that had issues pressuring opposing quarterbacks in 2007 can't manufacture any pressure in 2008. Opposing quarterbacks have prospered against the Jaguars defense, as they are normally untouched in the pocket, and receivers have been running wide open.
"It comes down to guys winning individual matchups," said Del Rio. "It comes down to blocking, tackling, throwing, and catching –the basic fundamentals of football. We just did not function at a high level for a sustained period of time. We have not been a consistent football team. That falls on my shoulders. And I'll make sure that I'll do all I can to push and pry and get the best results."
Del Rio has apparently pushed and pried for weeks, but the results are the same. The Jaguars defensive line is dominated by their opponents offensive line, and the same can be said about the Jaguars offensive line against opposing defensive lines.
"It's everyone beating the person that he's up against," said defensive end Reggie Hayward. The person who needs to win on the particular play is not winning and it's costing us. It's hurting the team, and it's costing us games. That's something we have to correct. You can watch film until you are blue in the face, but you have to take pride in your work and get the job done."
To make matters even worse, the Jaguars can't stop the run with any consistency and it
appears as if the entire defense is in need of a major overhaul, as the defensive line is loaded with players that are past their prime in Reggie Hayward, Paul Spicer, and John Henderson, and players who are still trying to figure out their jobs in Derrick Harvey, Quentin Groves, and Tony McDaniel. Throw in a set of underachieving linebackers and some major inexperience at safety, and that is the formula for the 23rd ranked defense in the NFL.
Jaguars defensive end Reggie Hayward may have summed it up best with his postgame comments, "When the offense is hot, the defense is cold. When the defense is hot, the offense is cold. They (Bengals) started fast on offense and we started slow on defense. The trend lately has been that the offense keeps us in the game, then the defense steps up to the plate, and then the offense has slowed down by the second half. By then, the game is over."
On Sunday, the offense didn't keep the Jaguars in the game and by the time they began to move the ball, it was too late. Make no mistake about it, the Bengals are not a good team that played out of their minds. The Jaguars were simply that bad, and if they gave the same effort against a good team, the final score would have represented a blowout, not a nail-biter.
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.
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