Charlie Bernstein: Fred Taylors departure had to do with two things: (1) The emergence of Maurice Jones-Drew as an every-downs back, and (2) Taylors salary which was supposed to be $6 million. Jones-Drew has been fantastic in his increased role and make no mistake, he is the Jaguars offense. When teams stop him, they stop the Jaguars.
2) David Garrard typically doesn't get much respect from the media around the nation for his play at QB in Jacksonville. Yet the Jaguars rewarded him with a seven-year $60 million contract last year. What's your impression of Garrard's play and is he worth the money he's being paid? (Any irony/similarities between him and Delhomme who also signed an extension last year for big money.)
Bernstein: The reason Garrard doesnt get a ton of respect around the nation is because he hasnt earned it. Garrard is a game manager who has tantalizing physical abilities, but at 31-years of age still makes rookie mistakes. Garrard cant go through his reads and routinely folds in crunch time. If the Jaguars were able to go back in time, they certainly wouldnt have given him the contract extension. Not only has he not been worth the money, the team is now forced to find another answer at the position in free agency or the draft, as the rest of the team is good enough to be competitive. Garrard has the fewest amount of touchdown passes of any quarterback who has started every game, and he leads the NFL in fumbles and fumbles lost.
3) Who are the play makers in this Jaguars offense, and how would you rate them from most dangerous to least?
Bernstein: Obviously, Maurice Jones-Drew is the best player on the team as he is a threat to take it to the house on any play. Mike Sims-Walker has turned into a legitimate number one receiver, and Marcedes Lewis is becoming one of the best tight ends in football. Torry Holt is a good possession receiver, and rookie Mike Thomas is turning into the Jaguars version of Wes Welker. Quarterback David Garrard can make jaw-dropping plays, but he has proven to be more than capable of making game-clinching mistakes.
4) Interestingly we (sout.com) interviewed a number of the player the Jaguars drafted this season. On offense, it looks like they got some real steals. How have the rookies (offense) played so far this year, and who looks like they're going to be a big contributor for the team down the road?
Bernstein: This Jaguars draft class is amongst the best Ive ever covered. Much of the reason for that is that the team has such little talent that four rookies were opening day starters. The rookie tackles in Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton have had their struggles, but they are seemingly getting better each and every week. Mike Thomas looks like hell have a nice career as a slot receiver and punt returner and Jarett Dillard was heading in the right direction before an injury ended his season prematurely. Running back Rashad Jennings has been a solid compliment to Maurice Jones-Drew as he has surprising quickness for a big guy.
5) Is the offensive line fixed after drafting two rookies tackles, or is there more work to do (i.e. additions to make)?
Bernstein: The Jaguars offensive line is pretty solid on the outside, and more than serviceable at the guard positions with Uche Nwaneri and Vince Manuwai. The position that needs to be upgraded is center as Brad Meester, fresh off a contract extension, has played very poorly and looks old.
Look for Part 2 where Bernstein gives the lowdown on Del Rio, the defense and more...