David Garrard (Getty Images)
Heading into last season, the Jaguars had several things to hang their hat on; an overpowering rushing game, an efficient passing attack and a defense that was blending experienced stars with up and coming players. What has changed?
Injuries, inconsistent play and chemistry issues spoiled Jacksonville’s hopes of building on its impressive 11-5 campaign during the 2007 season and the Jaguars went a dismal 5-11 in 2008.
"I believe in having a locker room full of unselfish players, a staff of unselfish coaches, and that together we can accomplish great things," Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said.
As previously mentioned, there were many reasons why the team couldn’t repeat on its 2007 success. Nearly the entire starting offensive line was out with injuries in the beginning of the year, free agent acquisitions such as Drayton Florence and Jerry Porter were monumental busts, and the team essentially never got things going.
There might have been another reason that factored into the team’s setback and that is that the Jaguars might have bitten off more than they could chew. That is, the Jaguars might have tried to go away from their simplistic game approach and were too elaborate at times.
It seems pretty evident that talent trumps scheming in the NFL, so you can only blame the game plan so much. Again, injuries and inconsistency certainly derailed the team last season, but trying to do too much in the passing game and on defense likely didn’t help.
"I think for me, for us, there's really a need for us to get back to the true identity of who we are as a football team," Del Rio said.
David Garrard thrived in 2007 in a play action based passing game. With injuries to the hogs up front, it was difficult for the team to establish the run and thus the play action game faltered. It’s difficult to judge the logic behind play calling. Still, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter seemed to get Garrard into too many progression type plays where he dropped back in the pocket and scanned the field more than he did the year before. As a result, Garrard had a difficult time reading defenses and held on the ball far too often at times.
If the offensive line can regain its 2007 form, then Koetter will likely be able to go back dialing up more play action passes, thus utilizing Garrard’s strengths, which are his mobility and accuracy and zip on intermediate throws.
Defensively, Jacksonville hired Greg Williams after losing coordinator Mike Smith to the Atlanta Falcons. Williams was not able make use of his personnel, which may not have been totally his fault, as there were some holes that could not be filled (i.e. the right cornerback position.) Still, there are some who have said that Williams’ scheme was too intricate and it led to too many mental errors for players.
"I believe in smart, tough football," Del Rio said. "I believe in having a physical football team. I believe in having a team that can stop the opponent from running the ball and that can hassle the quarterback and harass the quarterback."
It remains to be seen if the Jaguars can regain their 2007 form, but getting back to the basics will undoubtedly help. Winning in the trenches on both sides of the ball is crucial, and if that happens, the team’s coordinators take advantage of their specific personnel all across the field. This is all obviously easier said than done, but getting back to tough, physical football while executing a simple passing game will do the team wonders in 2009.