With a legitimate shot at making the playoffs in 2009, the Jaguars faded down the stretch, losing their last four games. Attribute the slide to youth, which will no longer be an excuse this season.
The Jaguars underwent extensive roster turnover before 2009, starting the year with 17 additions who played vital roles. In fact, Jacksonville's rookies combined to make 71 starts.
The club expects huge steps forward from last year's rookies in addition to improved play from quarterback David Garrard, who could be entering his final year as the Jaguars' starter. Jacksonville also wants to regain its identity on defense as an attacking 4-3 team.
Offense: Jacksonville's scheme, which relies on a punishing ground game to set up play-action, will likely receive a facelift now that coordinator Dirk Koetter has been given absolute power in play-calling duties. Look for Koetter to open up the passing attack even more while taking advantage of Garrard's mobility on bootlegs.
Garrard's days as a starter could come to an end if the club doesn't see significant improvement from him this season; he has been only average in his three seasons at the helm. The organization questions Garrard's commitment, saying he doesn't put in adequate time into preparation and the film room. On the field, it shows as Garrard struggles to get past his primary reads.
Maurice Jones-Drew produced 1,391 yards and 15 touchdowns in his first season as a full-time starter, and the Jaguars expect similar production. The challenge now is how the club can get more snaps to reserve Rashad Jennings, a seventh-round pick in '09 who came on as the season progressed.
Defense: Shoddy play up front led to a team total of 14 sacks, which tied for fifth-worst in NFL history. To address its struggling pass rush, Jacksonville signed former Packers end Aaron Kampman. While Kampman has been a productive pass rusher, he's coming off a season-ending knee injury, so questions remain.
Jacksonville's linebacker talent has been rich in the past, but this is now the position that has the most uncertainty. Del Rio and G.M. Gene Smith believe veteran outside linebacker Daryl Smith is the club's only bona fide starter. Justin Durant, who started in the middle last season, will move outside. Kirk Morrison, acquired from the Raiders in a spring trade, will take over at middle linebacker. Free-agent pickup Freddy Keiaho is also in the mix.
Mike Thomas, WR. As a jack-of-all-trades last year, Thomas had 1,301 all-purpose yards and set a rookie franchise record with 48 catches. Providing he doesn't have more hamstring problems, Thomas will have every opportunity to win the starting job opposite Mike Sims-Walker. Even if the 5-8 Thomas can't beat out Troy Williamson, he can expect to be a regular presence in the slot.
"My expectations this season are high. I want to be the No. 2 receiver. It's a role I can play and definitely will accept if given that chance. If not, I can be the slot receiver (on third down). I don't go into a season thinking about numbers because I think that can hinder you. Just focus on having fun and what you need to do and the numbers will come."
"Like with every team out there, it all comes from the top. Well, I keep hearing from folks around the league that (Jack) Del Rio is a train wreck. Do I believe that? I don't know. His teams seem to play hard for the most part. But I thought they gave up at times last year and other times didn't come ready to play, especially in the Tennessee game. …
"The quarterback isn't bad. I like his mobility, and he's got a pretty strong arm. He took some sacks last season, but they were starting two rookies at tackle. The running back (Jones-Drew) is their best offensive player. They will have to lean on him quite a bit. You've got to wonder how much he can take. …
"On defense, the biggest problem to me is they can't get to the quarterback. The corners are pretty good, although I think (Rashean) Mathis is probably a little overrated. …
"Right now I would say Jones-Drew is what makes that team go. If you can take him away—which isn't easy—you've got a good shot."
It's time for this young team to grow up, starting with Garrard, who enters his fourth season as the club's full-time starter.
QB: David Garrard, Luke McCown
FB: Greg Jones, Montell Owens
RB: Maurice Jones-Drew, Rashad Jennings
LT: Eugene Monroe, Jordan Black
LG: Uche Nwaneri, Kynan Forney
C: Brad Meester, Uche Nwaneri
RG: Vince Manuwai, Justin Smiley
RT: Eben Britton, Jordan Black
TE: Marcedes Lewis, Ernest Wilford
WR: Mike Sims-Walker, Troy Williamson
WR: Mike Thomas, Jarrett Dillard
LE: Derrick Harvey, Larry Hart
DT: Tyson Alualu, Atiyyah Ellison
DT: Terrance Knighton, D'Anthony Smith
RE: Aaron Kampman, Julius Williams
WLB: Justin Durant, Russell Allen
MLB: Kirk Morrison, Freddy Keiaho
SLB: Daryl Smith, Freddy Keiaho
LCB: Derek Cox, Tryon Brackenridge
SS: Gerald Alexander, Sean Considine
FS: Reggie Nelson, Anthony Smith
RCB: Rashean Mathis, Scott Starks
K: Josh Scobb
P: Adam Podlesh
KR: Deji Karim
PR: Scotty McGee
LS: Jeremy Cain
PFT: Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith said the draft process taught him an important lesson on taking criticism.
Y! Sports: Redskins fans found what appeared to be the wedding registry for Robert Griffin III and fiancee Rebecca Liddicoat, and they helped out their star QB.
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