David Garrard (Getty Images)
Expectations for the Jaguars are high for the 2008 season, perhaps the highest they’ve been for any team in franchise history. The Jaguars appear to have a loaded roster with very few question marks. The one preface for pretty much every NFL contender headed into a season is, “if they stay healthy.”
The New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts have been the gold standard of NFL teams over the past five seasons, as they’ve each won five straight division titles and have accounted for three Super Bowl titles over that period of time. Aside from both teams having record-setting quarterbacks in Tom Brady and Peyton Manning respectively, those quarterbacks have been unbelievably durable. Both Brady and Manning haven’t missed a meaningful game over the last six seasons, and that is the main reason for both teams success.
With the Jaguars roster as deep and talented as it is, they can likely afford to absorb an injury or two to most any position excluding quarterback. David Garrard ascended toward the top of the league’s quarterbacks with his 2007 campaign in which he had a 6:1 touchdown to interception ratio and the NFL’s third best quarterback rating at 102.1 in his first season as a full-time starter. Greater things are expected out of Garrard in 2008, and he feels up to the task.
“I know my position and I know where I stand,” said Garrard. “There is no more second-guessing, no more wondering every time I drive over here what’s going to be happening. It’s my chance and it’s my chance to be a leader of this team and take the reigns. I am definitely more comfortable right now.”
Due to their late surge in the 2007 season, the Jaguars won’t be sneaking up on anyone in 2008. “I believe we should have those expectations because we know what kind of team we have,” said the Jaguars starting quarterback. “We know that we made a pretty good run last year and that was off nobody even expecting us to do it. Now that we know we can do it…We didn’t sneak up on everybody all year long. They had to realize eventually that we were a pretty good team. Once they started to do that we still continued to move on and win ballgames. Now we know how we can play and there is no surprise from us and there shouldn’t be any surprise from anybody else.”
Whereas Jacksonville appears to have a top-tiered franchise quarterback in Garrard, the depth at the position is not so clear. The Jaguars signed former Dolphins quarterback Cleo Lemon to back up Garrard, and veteran journeyman Todd Bouman is also vying for a roster spot.
“They are all doing a great job,” said Garrard when he was asked about the backup quarterback competition. “I just really try to help as much as I can for all of them. It’s a system that I’ve been in for a little while now and I really find myself coaching a little bit which is pretty fun. Those guys are taking the coaching well and the little tips that I can give them that maybe the coaches can’t give them because they didn’t have the actual game experience. I think that really helps them out. Those guys are working their butts off and they are competing very hard. It’s really hard to decipher who has the edge right now.”
Through the first two weeks of OTA’s and mini-camps, Lemon has struggled mightily learning the Jaguars offense.
Garrard and Lemon (Getty Images)
“I think Lemon has struggled, it something that he’s going to have to work through,” said Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio. “He needs to pick it up.”
Lemon has kept his chin up according to David Garrard—
“He keeps everything pretty much to himself. He doesn’t get frustrated. He hasn’t really been down on himself which I think is a good thing. As a quarterback you have to be that way. He’s really handled himself well. He hasn’t showed in meetings or in the lockerroom that he is upset with himself.”
Injuries happen in the NFL. They don’t appear to happen to the elite teams at the quarterback position, and if the Jaguars are going to live up to their hefty preseason expectations, they must have a healthy David Garrard. Cleo Lemon or Todd Bouman can help the team stay the course for a few weeks, but they won’t experience any long-term success with either journeyman quarterback.
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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