The Jaguars are hoping to get play out of David Garrard that more closely represents his 2007 campaign rather than 2008. Garrard is playing for his job this season, as the Jaguars may draft a quarterback in the first round of the 2010 draft assuming he doesn't correct his mistakes.
Matt Schaub bounced back after a tough start to last season to command the NFL's third-ranked offense. The questions about Schaub are not so much about his ability to play at a high level, but more about his ability to suit up for 16 games.
The Jaguars have turned the backfield over to Maurice Jones-Drew, as the dynamic playmaker will no longer have to share the load with the departed Fred Taylor. Behind Jones-Drew, the Jaguars have seventh-round pick Rashad Jennings, fullback Greg Jones, and Chauncey Washington.
Houston features last season's super rookie, Steve Slaton, who may have been the best first-year running back in the game. Behind Slaton is oft-injured veteran Chris Brown, Ryan Moats, and undrafted rookies Jeremiah Johnson and Arian Foster.
Slight edge: Jaguars
The Jaguars revamped their wide receiving corps by letting go four of their top producers from a year ago. They're replaced them with veteran Torry Holt, and rookies Jarett Dillard, Mike Thomas and Tiquan Underwood. The only holdovers from last season are the talented, but oft-injured Mike Walker and Troy Williamson.
Perhaps the most talented position group on the team, the Texans boast Pro Bowler Andre Johnson, who could be the very best wideout in the game. To compliment Johnson, Houston has Kevin Walter who has a knack for finding the end zone, and slot-machine David Anderson. Throw in Jacoby Jones and Andre Davis and the Texans are loaded.
Big edge: Texans
Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter vowed to get Marcedes Lewis more involved in the passing game, and the team needs greater production from that position. Aside from the dominant blocking Lewis, the Jaguars are depending on rookie Zach Miller and Greg Estandia.
Houston may have the most tight end depth in the league, assuming Pro Bowler Owen Daniels is in camp on time and focused. The Texans drafted blocking end Anthony Hill and do-everything guy James Casey, and if they choose to keep four tight ends, Joel Dreesen could be a contributor.
Big edge: Texans
The Jaguars spent much of the offseason with the focus on repairing a very damaged offensive line from a season ago. Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton may both be opening day starters as rookies, and the team is returning Vince Manuwai from injury. The offensive line should be a strength in 2009.
We believe this group has the potential to be the best offensive line in franchise history. There is a question of whether or not 2008 first-round pick Duane Brown will be able to be an effective full-time left tackle, but we feel confident in his abilities. The interior of the line should be improved with third-round pick, Antoine Caldwell.
The Jaguars have some questions on the defensive line as they will be counting on greater production from last year's first-day picks, Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves. Throw in a seemingly healthy Reggie Hayward and the team has more questions than answers at defensive end. On the interior there are just as many questions as John Henderson appears to be on the decline and the team will be depending on rookie Terrence Knighton and a bigger Derek Landri.
Houston may have the best end in the game in Mario Williams, and free agent acquisition Antonio Smith should have a big year because of Williams. Add in second-round pick Connor Barwin and undrafted rookie Tim Jamison, and the Texans have their best group of pass rushers in team history. On the inside, Amobi Okoye is looking to bounce back from an injury-filled 2008 campaign, and Travis Johnson is just looking to prove he belongs as an NFL starter. The team acquired former Lion Shaun Cody to go along with Tim Bulman, Frank Okam and DelJuan Robinson.
Big edge: Texans
The Jaguars linebackers may be the best position group on the team, and certainly on the defense. Justin Durant will now play the middle, as Daryl Smith will stay outside opposite Clint Ingram. Those three starters are solid, and Durant has the ability to be spectacular. Thomas Williams and Brian Iwuh will likely be forced to play if one of the starters goes down.
Houston seemingly has more talented linebackers than spots for them as they have star MLB DeMeco Ryans, along with first-round pick Brian Cushing. The battle for the other outside position will be interesting, as the ultra-talented Zac Diles is coming off a broken leg, and Xavier Adibi was impressive last year as a rookie. Add in veterans Cato June and Buster Davis and the Texans are loaded on the second level of their defense.
The Jaguars corners should be solid as Rashean Mathis had a solid 2008 campaign. Brian Williams and rookie Derek Cox will be fighting for the starting job opposite Mathis. Whichever corner doesn't start will likely compete for the nickel spot with Scott Starks.
If the Texans have questions on their team it's in the secondary. Dunta Robinson is the best corner the team has, possibly ever, but he's unhappy with his contract situation as the team franchised him. Fred Bennett and Jacques Reeves will be fighting for the starting job opposite Robinson, and don't count out Antwaun Molden or rookie Glover Quin.
The Jaguars have oodles of questions at the safety positions as former first-round pick Reggie Nelson regressed last year, and the team let Gerald Sensabaugh walk in free agency. Free agent acquisition Sean Considine has the inside track on the strong safety job, and the newly acquired Gerald Alexander will compete with Nelson for the starting job at free.
The Houston safeties are possibly the weakest position group on the team as the expected starters are Eugene Wilson and Nick Ferguson. Dominique Barber will compete for playing time along with rookie Troy Nolan.
The Jaguars should have a solid special teams unit with strong-legged kicker Josh Scobee, and punter Adam Podlesh (or Steve Weatherford). The return team will likely feature rookies Mike Thomas or Derek Cox, as well as second-year speedster Brian Witherspoon.
The Texans special teams specialists are very good as Kris Brown is one of the league's most accurate kickers, and Matt Turk has a booming leg. Andre Davis and Jacoby Jones handled kickoff and punt duties respectively a year ago, and Troy Nolan and Glover Quin could be in the mix in 2009.
Slight edge: Texans
Division Matchup: Jaguars / Texans
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