David Garrard (Getty Images)
Most NFL fans and experts alike are surprised by the Jaguars disappointing 4-9 record. Although the secondary has underperformed, and the defensive line hasn’t been able to sustain consistent pressure on opposing passers, they still have a respectable 15th overall defensive ranking.
“When you look at the specific areas that we need to see improvement in, defensively I think the last four or five weeks we’ve settled in and played better defensively than we did to start the season,” Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said.
Although there are several problems with these underachieving Jaguars, many of them stem from the offensive side of the ball. The Jaguars offense has averaged just 17.7 points per game this season, and they simply haven’t been able to score when they needed to this year.
“Offensively, we’ve got to have improvement in the overall execution of our offense, in particular the passing game,” Del Rio said. “It starts with having the time to look down the field, and then you’ve got to have receivers separating and getting open, and then you’ve got to have the quarterback working through his progressions. And we have not had those three things, we have not had near the level we have to have it. So we’ve got to continue to work on that, make sure that we’re putting our players in positions to do things they’re capable of doing.”
The Jaguars offensive line had two starters go down during the first game of the season, but have gotten better as the year has gone on.
“It was solid,” Del Rio said as he gave his thoughts on the play of the offensive line Sunday. “It was solid for the most part.”
The Jaguars receivers have been much maligned this year and in years past, but the Jaguars head coach doesn’t believe that their speed is the problem.
“I’ve seen Hines Ward make plays, he’s not a track star,” Del Rio explained. “I think that can be overdone a little bit. But blocking, having time to look down the field, creating separation regardless of your 40-time, and the quarterback going through his progressions and delivering the ball on time to people in open holes, those are what make passing offense go. And we’re just not functioning at a level that’s giving us a chance right now as a football team. It’s clearly an area that we have to improve.”
The Jaguars receivers were nearly non-existent on Sunday, as they caught just seven passes during the game. David Garrard was not able to go through his progressions and often checked down as running back Maurice Jones-Drew caught seven passes all by himself.
“I thought Matt had a couple third down conversions, a couple catches that led to third down conversions or led to first downs. Other than that, I don’t remember a whole lot going to the receivers.”
If the offensive line and the receivers have gained coach Del Rio’s seal of approval from Sunday, yet the offense couldn’t move the ball effectively through the air, that leaves the bulk of the blame on quarterback David Garrard. With all apologies to Plaxico Burress, Garrard shot his team in the leg early on as he threw an interception on his first pass attempt which quickly led to a 7-0 Bears advantage, which they would not relinquish.
“That was funny,” Danieal Manning said as about his first quarter interception. “We had a zone pressure defense on them and we got within man coverage. Basically, I was hovering over my guy and the guy ran a dig and I saw him, so I jumped in front of him and Garrard threw it right to me.”
Garrard finished 19 of 38 passing for 178 yards, one touchdown on a short check-down to Maurice Jones-Drew, and the big interception. His quarterback rating was 61.1, and his quarterback rating for the season is just 80.9, more than 21 points lower than that of a year ago.
Garrard’s ineffective passing day came against a Bears defense which was ranked 29th against the pass entering Sunday’s action.
“That’s a defense that the one thing they have done, they’ve loaded up like they did yesterday with a lot of guys at the line of scrimmage,” Del Rio explained. “They give you opportunities to gouge them in the passing game and we were not able to make any of those plays yesterday. There were opportunities. I do not think the weather was a factor.”
The Jaguars head coach refused to give his quarterback a vote of confidence following Sunday’s game, and it’s obvious that Garrard is playing at the level that kept him as a backup for most of his career. The Jaguars are financially vested in Garrard and they need him to regain the form of a year ago, or they need to find someone who can lead a pretty talented team back to the playoffs next year.
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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