The Jaguars 2009 season can be construed as many things to many people. The standings show their second consecutive last place finish, and a team that ended a potential playoff run by falling flat on their faces with a four-game losing streak. From the excellence demanding, perfectionist point of view, the 2009 Jaguars can be labeled as nothing but a massive failure. Their third non-playoff season out of four, an epic collapse down the stretch, and the realization that the quarterback is just plain mediocre will leave many heads shaking about the future of the franchise in Jacksonville.
"The season didn't end the way we wanted it to," Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said.
The Jaguars had nine of their ten home games blacked out, and the only one that wasn't was due to a major ticket-selling ploy by local business leaders. The team went nearly five games without any fourth period points down the stretch, and the defense leaked like a sieve as they were unable to get stops in crunch time situations. The team was dead last in the NFL in sacks, and a ultra-windy day on the shores of Lake Erie and a backup quarterback named Derek Anderson were the only things keeping the Jaguars from finishing dead last in pass defense.
Taking all of those facts into account it would be difficult to label the 2009 Jaguars as a success.
That said, a vast majority of Jaguars fans would've signed up for a 7-9 record following 2008's 5-11 debacle. Despite the end of the season collapse, the Jaguars had lots of positives from 2009. The rookie class proved to be the best in franchise history, highlighted by Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton playing like an early first-round draft pick despite being selected in round three. Jacksonville also started six other rookies in the season finale, as the combination of Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton showed plenty of promise at left and right tackle; Derek Cox finished with four interceptions and a fumble recovery; Mike Thomas proved himself to be a viable weapon in the passing game, and undrafted rookie Russell Allen played well enough for the team to likely jettison Clint Ingram this offseason. Sixth-round pick Zach Miller made the most of his opportunities down the stretch as he caught eight passes for 69 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the season finale.
"We didn't finish the season like we wanted to, but we have a lot of young talent and a bright future ahead," Jaguars wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker tweeted following the loss to Cleveland.
This year the Jaguars had a pair of young players avoid draft bust status and step up in a big way, as wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker led the team in receiving with 63 catches for 869 yards and seven receiving touchdowns, the third-highest total in team history. Tight end Marcedes Lewis continued his dominant blocking and caught 32 passes for 518 yards, leading all NFL tight ends in yards per catch with 16.2, proving himself as a reliable pass-catcher.
2009 saw Maurice Jones-Drew take control of the offense and become the every-downs back that some feared he couldn't because of size limitations. Jones-Drew not only led the Jags in rushing with 1,391 yards, but led the AFC in rushing touchdowns with 15 and earned his first Pro Bowl berth.
"There were a lot of things accomplished this year that we don't want to lose sight of," Jack Del Rio said. "So I want them to keep their heads high.
"I want them to understand where we need to go. We can build on some of the positives."
Sure, the Jaguars finish was disappointing but a team that had 16 rookies on the roster for the final game certainly overachieved. The Jaguars saw themselves turn from a bunch of individuals to a team. This sense of chemistry is something they didn't have a year ago and added to the losing season. Overall, the Jaguars avoided a losing record in their division for the first time since 2005, and a two-win improvement over 2009 with a large percentage of new faces, and a trimmer payroll and more team-oriented players can only lead one to construe 2009 as a success.
If you're upset about the way the season ended, you certainly have the right to be. Just remember that this is a team that appears to be on the rise and with some tweaking at key positions they could very well compete for a playoff spot again in 2010.
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